Tracking Our Favorite Songs of 2013 #14

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This week on Tracking – a regular series in which we discuss our current favorite songs – you can listen to additions from Arcade Fire, Volcano Choir, DARKSIDE, Cults and King Krule.

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Arcade Fire – “Reflektor”

We should have seen this coming, right? After all, The Suburbs climaxed on the magnificent synth-bathed stomper “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” With James Murphy added to the mix, the unrepentant disco chug of Arcade Fire’s new single “Reflektor” arrives not as an oddity, but fait accompli, a logical conclusion. Still, hook and melody are merely a side concern here (in contrast to “Sprawl II”). Grounded in rhythm and instrumental textures, the song heralds another bold stylistic leap from Arcade Fire. “Reflektor” is seven-and-a-half minutes of steady drum-kit propulsion, interspersed here and there with angular guitar riffs, honking horn embellishments, tinkling keyboard notes, random electronic interjections, and even a cameo from David Bowie. Atop it all, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne sing as is if the fate of the humanity depends on the might of their vocal cords.

Rodin’s marble sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice – in their final, tragic embrace – adorns the cover of Reflektor, Arcade Fire’s fourth album. It appears Butler also mined his dog-eared copies of Edith Hamilton and The Republic when writing the album’s title track, which evokes two different Greek myths. The sad fate of Narcissus – the hunter who falls so in love with his own watery reflection that he perishes gazing at it, unsatisfied and alone – is recalled throughout Butler’s lyrics and is given visual representation on Anton Corbijn’s video for “Reflektor” (above). Butler, however, ultimately strikes his critique of modern life in general, and social media in particular, against the flint of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

Plato argued that our experience with the world is but a lesser copy of a perfect, supernatural realm. By that argument, any man-made image of everyday life, say a photograph, is a reproduction of a copy. Once uploaded to Facebook, the pic becomes an imitation of a reproduction of a copy. When a friend shares it, you now have a replica of an imitation of a reproduction of a copy. If it then goes viral? As Win Butler sings on “Reflektor,” it’s then “just a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of a reflection!” In other words, modern life begets emptiness until zero eventually multiplies with zero.

Vincent Morisset’s spectacular, technologically innovative, take on “Reflektor” offers a worldly response to Butler’s metaphysical concerns: embrace your body and others’ too, “break free” and dance. Arcade Fire’s new single may raise many timeless questions, but it also provides a simple, conclusive answer with every thumping beat. – Peter Tabakis

Tracking Our Favorite Songs of 2013 #14 Tracking Our Favorite Songs of 2013 #14

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