Label: Merge, Sonovox
Arcade Fire's fourth album, Reflektor, couldn't have been made without a couple of important outside elements: James Murphy and the country of Haiti. These influences work with Arcade Fire's theatrical rock in strange ways, and this album will probably prove to be the band's most polarizing. But those who are disappointed should have seen it coming—songs like "Haiti" and "Sprawl II" dropped hints years ago. Throughout the album—but especially on standout "Here Comes The Night Time"—the energy is somewhere between Haitian Carnival and hopeless disco, some difficult-to-pinpoint mood that balances celebration and desperation. It's like the perfect theme music for an end-of-the-world party on the beach.
Reflektor's weakness is that, unlike Arcade Fire's debut and their Grammy-winning third album, The Suburbs, it's hard to play from start to finish. There is an album's worth of excellent music here, but there is also extra noise and drawn out moments that can come across pretentious or self-indulgent. Defending "Here Comes The Night Time II" or the last five minutes of "Supersymmetry" is difficult, but maybe a little disruption was necessary. Stretching this album out and giving it time to breathe makes it feel more like an event and not so much like the follow-up to a Grammy-winning stadium rock album. Whatever the case, it doesn't strip this album of its greatness, and at its finest moments, Reflektor finds Arcade Fire at their sharpest, most creative, and best yet. —Jacob Moore