Just mere days ago the long awaited single “Reflektor” by Arcade Fire was leaked on the web and created a frenzy in the music scene. Right on par with other songs such as “Sprawl II“, Arcade Fire is back with another eclectic song/music video combo that I think may actually surprise long time fans and the newly introduced alike.
The music video, unsurprisingly, is dripping with typical aesthetic qualities we tend to associate with an artsy or indie production (black & white video, french, strange yet dynamic frames, etc.). This video follows suit with Arcade Fire’s overall creative image thus far and I don’t see them deviating from it. The content of the music however is what really brings this combo to the forefront of recent news.
Arcade Fire’s brand or label of music has always been pretty hard to nail down with a simple describer such as rock, pop, folk, or whatever else you can think of. With this in mind I’ve found that the overwhelming majority of people simply refer to them as “indie”, here using the catch all term that has recently been put into action instead of the actual institution with which it is produced. One blurb from this song immediately tells you where this next album seems to be going though. Disco.
For a band that is at least perceived to be pushing the envelope with each installment of their discography it almost seems out of place that they would take a step back and go for a truly 70’s and 80’s feel akin to an early David Bowie. That is until you consider that “mainstream” pop has been incorporating the rhythms and beats that made that genre popular into their own songs. Contemporary pop icons such as Lady Gaga (mainly off of her first album) borrowed enormously from this era and, with a little help from electronic music, created a sound that took her to the forefront of our pop culture. Again though this seems a very large step towards the “mainstream” and the average, everyday song. So why do it? The answer is simple. I believe they went in this direction because they are caught in the middle ground of being “indie” and popular much in the same way that bands such as Imagine Dragons and Mumford & Sons found themselves right before they exploded completely into the pop culture scene. This middle-brow/indie limbo position in society has claimed many bands in recent years and the coming album should be a good indication as to where Arcade Fire will lie in the spectrum. However I think that Arcade Fire has managed to hold onto its “indie” label even though taking a step towards the popular because they were able to incorporate the style into their own eclectic noise they have been able to produce over and over again.
Stereogum recently released an article addressing this new single. It takes a whack at trying to figure out exactly why Arcade Fire may have gone in this direction while both celebrating and criticizing the decision. While the author and I don’t agree on all fronts, it is definitely worth taking a look at.
Ultimately the question we all must answer is whether this new direction Arcade Fire is taking is some ground breaking, revolutionary advancement in their music and the genre as a whole or if it’s simply a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of long past popular media that is coming back into the forefront of our culture.