Music critics appear divided in regards to the merits of Arcade Fire’s forthcoming fourth LP, Reflektor. When listening to second single “Afterlife,” the lukewarm reception is made understandable as Win Butler and company have pushed themselves further from their humble origins than ever before. Yet while it’s easy to pine for the days of The Suburbs and Funeral, there is something totally refreshing in hearing a band at the height of their fame throwing us such a curveball.
“Afterlife” plays around with an unconventional structure and melody, and lyrically, it offers enough variety for those frustrated with “Reflektor”‘s repetitiveness. For a band that came to prominence by making an album fueled by the heartache of loss, this new single fully captures their emotional arc to this point. Backed by pulsating synthesizers and tribal percussion, Win Butler begins the song by singing, “Afterlife / Oh my god, what an awful word.” But by song’s end, Butler fights back, singing, “It’s just an afterlife.” Similar thematically to Pink Floyd’s epic “The Great Gig In The Sky,” “Afterlife” rather ironically finds Arcade Fire living in the moment as opposed to reflecting on the Big Picture.
Reflektor is out next week through Merge.