Arcade Fire albums usually arrive with a technological gimmick—mysterious hotlines, shell corporations, immersive apps. It's benevolent overkill: Their orchestral-rock tunes often feel like VR films anyways. The Montreal collective creates songs with texture and weight; strongly defined beginnings, middles, and ends; and a voice in the ear that’s almost vaudevillian, insisting that everything you’re experiencing really is a very big deal. Hit “play” and feel what you need to feel—communal uplift, twitchy outrage, bittersweet catharsis.
Yet it’s tough to satisfyingly plug into their fifth album, Everything Now, and there are two tempting factors to blame: its obsession with danceability and its overdetermined lyrical concept. But fans know that both of those things aren’t all that new for the band. Something deeper, more hardware-level, is going awry.
Arcade Fire have long presented themselves as warriors against the numbness and isolation bred by modern society. Their 2004 debut, Funeral, told of mourners rediscovering youthful joie de vivre, and accordingly beneath its chamber pop was the thrum of body music—disco, sock hop, conga. After following that approach to an Album of the Year Grammy with 2010’s The Suburbs, they underwent a shift and let their groovier side take the lead on 2013’s Reflektor. Though many listeners snickered at the new nightclubby ambitions of a band wearing blazers and sneering about social media, Reflektor delivered on Arcade Fire’s essential promise. Amid the six-minute shuffles were wrenching melodies, musical plot-twists, and earned-in-sweat epiphanies.