An Analysis of Arcade Fire’s Single “Reflektor”


The Canadian based band Arcade Fire have released their first single, the album’s title song “Reflektor”, alongside an incredibly visually attractive and interactive music video, providing a wonderful glimpse of their up-coming album. The title track is also the first track on the album, and through it’s musical composition and lyrical arrangement, the band gives us an astounding perspective on how they have continually improved their sound while staying true to their previous work.

Here’s a quick break down of why Arcade Fire’s new album will be worth the listen.

“Reflektor” immediately launches into an irresistibly catchy tune almost impossible to keep from tapping your foot to, or straight up dancing.

The first verse opens with Win, the lead male vocalist and husband of lead female vocalist, Regine Chassagne. “We fell in love, alone on a stage in the reflective age,” Win sings. Regine responds in the Pre-Chorus singing in French, “Entre la nuit, la nuit et l’aurore. Entre le royaume des vivants et des morts,” roughly translated as, “Between the night, night and dawn. Between the realm of the living and the dead.” The husband and wife duo sing to each other before the Chorus, implying the concept of their love as being a distortion via the reflector.

Verse 2 is directed to the listener, “Now, the signals we send, are deflected again. We’re still connected, but are we even friends?” This statement asks the listener if they’re even friends if the original message is deflected in the original concept.

Verse 3 then examines how the medium, in which this very song is presented, distorts the original, “Our song escapes, on little silver discs. Our love is plastic; we’ll break it to bits. I want to break free, but will they break me down?”

Here the couple specifically points to how their music in Verse 1 literally “escapes” onto these mediums in the form of CDs, and even worse, digital files.

Ultimately, the song ends by placing the interpretive responsibilities in the listener’s lap. The interactive video specifically does this as at the end of the song the video is totally under the listener/viewers control. “It’s a Reflektor, just a Reflektor, Will I see you on the other side?” Arcade Fire has given us an amazing single that stands by itself as a remarkable achievement in creating a statement on the connection between the musician and audience, a connection that has been degrading ever since the evolution of digital file sharing. Will you see Arcade Fire on the other side?


A review of Fiona Apple’s album “The Idler Wheel…”

Fiona Apple might habitually wait anywhere from five to seven years between albums and tours, but she always makes it up to fans in the end. Take for example her most recent album. The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, released this past summer, is Fiona’s fourth studio album. Her last album before this one was Extraordinary Machine, released in 2005.

The Idler Wheel, as it is typically called by fans, has all the best unique characteristics from her previous albums, while still managing to have a fresh sound. It’s bitter and melancholic like Tidal, angry like When The Pawn Hits… (another shortened album title. This album’s title is long enough to take up its own paragraph), and snarky like Extraordinary Machine. The single from this album, “Every Single Night,” comes with a video showing Fiona at her finest: either with an octopus on her head, or playing with snails. It’s reassuring that, though the world has changed significantly since her last album release, Fiona is still Fiona.

The majority of tracks on this album feature Fiona’s unique and characteristic piano playing. Something new on this album, however, are the choppy, syncopated beats of Fiona’s new drummer Amy Wood. Wood matches Fiona’s frantic piano pounding tit for emotional tat. The deluxe version of the album includes a bonus track called “Hot Knife,” in which Fiona even delves into the world of vocal harmony.

The Idler Wheel… is brutally honest, but what makes it so interesting and powerful is that Fiona is being brutally honest about herself, and not those who have perhaps wronged her in the past. This album gives the listener the feeling that the song lyrics could have been lifted directly from Fiona’s personal journal and not edited at all, such as in the song “Left Alone”:

Oh, when I try to love
I can love the same man in the same bed in the same city
But not in the same room, it’s a pity, but
Oh, it never bothered me before.

Everything about The Idler Wheel… justifies the seven year wait, from the album artwork to the lyrics to the music itself. Fiona Apple has poked her head out into the music scene to let everyone know that she’s back, for now. 

Five New Albums to Look for in 2013

Thom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace – Amok

Thom Yorke and Flea come together to create a new sound in an album titled Amok, scheduled for release January 28, 2013


The National — ?

The National claims only to have “a few ideas floating around” for a new album, but claim that they won’t begin recording until late 2012.  They’re wanting to do something with a “garagey-blues” feeling.

Jamie Lidell—Jamie Lidell

Jamie Lidell is said to be releasing his sixth studio album sometime in the next year.  One of the tracks, “What A Shame,” was released on YouTube this November.

“What A Shame”

Yeah Yeah Yeahs — ?

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs will be playing in Big Day Out 2013 in Australia, and have a rumored new album to be released in the spring.

OneRepublic — Native

It’s been a long time coming, but OneRepublic’s third album is set to be released in January.  One of the singles already released is titled “Feel Again” and was first performed on Good Morning America in August.

“Feel Again”

“Lonerism” by Tame Impala: a review

Tame Impala, an Australian psychedelic rock band, recently recorded and released their second full length album, Lonerism, in follow up to the 2010 release of Innerspeaker. Kevin Parker, front man of Tame Impala, stated that “Lonerism represents a departure from his previous work by incoporating an expanded sonic palette, more emotional song writing, and a more pronounced narrative perspective.” Their latest album does exhibit a slight variation to their previous work, experimenting more so with the lyrical content and creativity in time signatures and experimental rhythms, yet still heavily revolve around the psychedelic sounds and a similar Beatles-like sound they have been compared to. For Lonerism, this sound works well, maintaining an already loved and praised sound for their band, while making some attempts at experimentation within their sound. Lonerism is a successful follow up album in that it will please existing fans and potentially attract a wider audience with their already attractive music.

Ten Commandments of Concert Goers

  1. Thou shalt pregame. $7 for a twelve-ounce beer, $10 for a twenty-four ounce. Do you really want to pay those inflated alcohol prices? Didn’t think so. Neither do I.
  2. Thou shalt buy thy ticket ahead of time. Just do it. It will make your life so much easier come concert day. You’ll already be waiting in the line to get into the venue. Why tack on another?
  3. Thou shalt arrive early. Don’t get mad when you get stuck in the crappy area in the back trying in vain to peer around the heads of those vertically inclined individuals in front of you because you got there late. If you want to be up front, get there early, wait in line, grab your chunk of floor, and wait some more. Which leads us to….
  4. THOU SHALT NOT SHOVE THYSELF IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE. Those people in front of you got there early, waited hours in line, then probably waited another hour standing in their cherished front row spot. They’re tired, their feet hurt, and they’ve earned that spot, dammit. Don’t be an asshole by rushing the stage when the artist comes on and attempting to elbow those patient devoted fans out of your way. If you want that spot, get there early and wait/suffer with them.
  5. Thou shalt enjoy thyself! You’re at a concert. Move. You’ll have more fun, the people around you will have more fun, and the performer will have more fun. When they’re up there rocking out and workin’ hard, do you think they want to look out and see a room full of zombies? No. The more fun you have, the more fun they have, and the better the concert experience will be for everyone. (I acknowledge that not all concerts are conducive to this, such as sit-down shows. Whatever. Proceed to the next commandment.)
  6. Thou shalt not yell rude things at the performer. Why would you even do this in the first place? Alas, there’s one in every crowd. The performer is taking a moment to speak to the crowd, and someone yells out “sing!”. You might have paid to see the show, but that doesn’t make them your servant. Show some couth.
  7. Thou shalt wait thy turn to meet the performer. This is along the same lines as commandment four. Don’t cut in front of other fans patiently waiting to meet the artist. We all learned how to wait our turn in kindergarten. You can do it.
  8. Thou shalt not act like a blubbering buffoon. Should you get to meet the artist, don’t act like a prepubescent tween at a Bieber concert. Play it cool, then freak out about it later.
  9. Thou shalt not steal from other fans. The first time I saw Joan Jett, my buddy, who is consistently lacking in funds, went with me. He worked extra hours to afford the luxury of buying a t-shirt at the show. Someone stole it while we were rocking out. He couldn’t replace it. Not. cool.
  10. Thou shalt be satisfied. Regardless of how it ends, just be happy that you had the experience. 

Review of Amanda Palmer’s “Theater is Evil”

When the Dresden Dolls hit the shelves with their first album when I was thirteen, they were, for me personally, as they undoubtedly were and still are for countless others, a delightfully refreshing musical group that stood in stark relief against a pop culture background featuring increasingly homogenized electronic music.  Their cabaret style that blended so well with a modern rock twist brought back a classic sound, splendidly repackaged in a new, performative manner. Amanda Palmer, the pianist and lead singer of the duo, really knew how to reach for the emotionally aggressive child in you without sounding immaturely angsty and trite.  Surely there were many years to come from the band, featuring not only Palmer but her right hand man and drummer, Brian Viglione. At least that was what I thought. But then the dazzling pair seemed to have completely vanished from the music scene, at least in the form of their mime bedecked act for Dresden Dolls. The albums from their studio stopped pouring out in about 2008 and it seemed, for then at least, that they were both absorbed into side projects that signaled, in my mind, that my beloved punk cabaret duet was over. I would from then on be forced to just repeat the past by resorting to their only three albums when I wanted that brutal honesty Palmer’s lyrics brought out about the world.

Was this the death of that evocative, radical sound that had so defined the beloved duo? It was anyone’s guess at the time.

Needless to say, I lost hope, until I finally had a chance to hear Palmer’s solo work. Without Brian, I thought the feel of the music would have slipped away. The pair had, in my own mind,  been a necessary ingredient in the production of the sound that shook up my younger years so much. But thank god, my fears did not come true and the music was not at all at an end. Palmer’s solo work proved to be something quite different at first with her debut album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer? But it still was gritty and suggestive as ever, with titles such as Leeds United and Astronaut proving that the gal still possessed, and always had, the chops  to make the listener uncomfortable as ever while still sounding like something coming out of a twenties night club.

Palmer’s newest released, Theater is Evil, which first appeared in the beginning of September of this year, gives new insight to the songwriter’s abilities, as she heads forth into even more of an alternative rock sound than her previous work had delved into. The work at the same time still retains that visceral feeling of its proceeding albums, like you just looked too deeply into someone’s thoughts, and can’t ever really eradicate the impression that those thoughts in some way mirror sentiments of your own. Even at her most specific lyrical moments she still has this magical method of wrapping it in a universality of meaning that points out the strengths of her writing ability.

I’m not the killing type
But I would kill to make you feel
I don’t mean kill someone for real
I couldn’t do that, it is wrong
But I can say it in a song

– “The Killing Type”

Theater is Evil was funded by Kickstarter, a website that allows interested parties to help aid a project that needs a financial boost. Palmer’s fan base said yes to more, and the product that came out of their support and Palmer’s genius is worth every bit of the six dollars the album is selling for on Amazon.

Album review: “Coexist” by the xx

by Lauren Staten—The common question, is there sound when a tree falls but no one is there to hear it, is answered by the unobvious duo of Romy Croft and Oliver Sim.

The XX released their second album, Coexist, on September 10th, and I’m one of the few who saw this tree falling.

This album was no surprise after the first, and no disappointment. Croft and Sim keep you hanging on to every word with their slow, minimalist approach. It’s easy to picture the two sitting in an all black room with their instruments, naked, raw, pale and intent on the unusual songs. As Sim says in one of the songs, it’s “the things that no one else says.” The etched mutterings of Croft and the smoother tones of Sim is a deadly combination.

It feels like wooden souls that are being carved out in front of the listener. Painful and torn, elegant and soft. They have ventured some since the first album, applying some modern undertones to their songs; using less xylophone. But it remains familiar to their common “Basic Space” tune.

The alternative artists created a sophisticated album that is timeless. An album containing tracks that can be used in so many places. Simply painful, yet effortless. Scenic sounding. Like when a tree falls and no one hears it.

This album has the potential to startle so many when they walk upon the strewn branches.

Sweet Potato Pie and I Shut My Mouth: The Narrative Craft of Country Music.

As a writer, I often find myself delving into other mediums of art for inspiration, longing to improve my craft by taking cues from the masters of forms of media outside my own. Literature and film have always been close friends, swapping plots and characters freely, but often I find country music just as inspiring and insightful as some of my favorite books when crafting a story’s rhythm, imagery, tone, and setting. Listed are four songs with exceptionally good narratives and characters in which writers could take some cues.

  1. “Paradise”—John Prine

    Country music doesn’t get more literary than John Prine. For over thirty years now, Prine, a past Poet Laureate and Grammy winner, has been creating characters that have a vividness to rival some of Faulkner’s, but his most essential cut will always be “Paradise” from his first album. The narrator of the story, assumedly Prine, tells of taking trips as a child to his parents’ hometown, a place “beside the green river…where the air smells like snakes.” Reflecting on and longing for the places of youth has a long tradition in American literature, including in To Kill and Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn, and “Paradise” taps into the same sentiment with the lines: “When I die, I’ll let my soul roll on up to the Rochester Dam, and I’ll be half way to heaven with paradise waiting, just five miles away from where ever I am.” “Paradise” is undeniably American in both theme and imagery, and is a song in which Prine secures himself as a master of words.

  2. “Bob”—Drive-By Truckers

    Creative writing professors often advise their students that good stories put the conflict in the beginning, and I can think of few better example than when “Bob” starts: “Bob goes to church every Sunday, every Sunday that the fish aren’t biting. Bob never has to get dinner with the preacher because Bob never bothered getting married.” Few stories and fewer songs start that compellingly. “Bob” fleshes out its protagonist so clearly that it’s almost intimidating how well and concisely it’s done. So much of a character is fleshed out by a simple line like “He likes to drink a beer or two every now and again, he always had more dogs than he ever had friends.” “Bob” is pure literary elegance.

  3. “Cold Water”—Tom Waits

    Ok, ok, ok. I know Tom Waits isn’t exactly a country artist, but is liberal use of slide guitar, Appalachian junkyard banjos, double bass, and tales of heartbreak and longing make him an honorary member in my personal Country Music Hall of Fame alongside Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, and The Carter Family. But no matter what genre of music is brave of enough to call Waits its own, the scenes of degradation and waste in “Cold Water” make it feel like a companion piece to John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row or Cormac McCarthy’s Suttrree, as all deal with squatters and ramblers struggling to stay afloat amongst urban decay. It’s also hard to top lines like: “I look forty-seven but I’m twenty-four. They’ve shooed me away from here every time before, but I’m watching TV in the window of a furniture store.”

  4. “Greenville”—Lucinda Williams

    Lucinda Williams is to country music what Flannery O’Connor is to the short story. Both womens’ work is so powerful and wonderfully jarring that it’s hard to imagine a time without them, as their influence on their respective mediums is so profound. Much like O’Connor’s work, “Greenville” is small tragedy coursing with both dark comic undertones and naked emotionalism. There are few better lines in contemporary country music than, “You drink hard liquor, come on strong, loose your temper whenever someone looks at you wrong.”

An Eager Listener’s Thoughts

Another beautiful piece of art has emerged from a simple barn in Illinois. Andrew Bird’s self-recorded new album, “Break it Yourself,” was released to the public on March 6, 2012. From the album art, to the intricate well-written songs, Bird’s new album is a wonderful piece of art that should be listened to and celebrated by music-lovers.
Although Bird’s new songs contain his iconic whistles and violin-plucks, the overall mood of the album seems less mellow and more energetic than his previous “Weather Systems” and “Armchair Apocrypha.” The vivacious musical details that fill his songs on “Break it Yourself,” provide a refreshing experience for the listener.

In addition, many of the lyrics to his new songs seem a bit more relatable than the ones in his previous albums. Specifically, Bird’s songs “Eyeoneye” and “Give It Away” revolve around a common love-subject. The subject is relatable, and the words are still well written without cliché. Bird’s musicianship and lyric-writing abilities show their true potential through “Break it Yourself,” and should leave understanding artists in awe of his talent.

According to Stephen Thompson and his “First Listen” review on NPR Music, listeners must prepare themselves to experience Bird’s new album. Thompson accurately instructs: “Clear away any and all distractions, listen on headphones and let its subtle charms sink in slowly. Early mornings or late nights work best. This isn’t a record for chaotic commutes or busy offices – these are songs of quiet contemplation” (NPR Music). Thompson completely embodies the ambience of “Break it Yourself” through this statement. Bird’s music is like a tapestry woven together with different unique detailed instrumental sounds that create one beautiful piece in the end. Luckily, this type of art is not only seen, but experienced, and can set the tone for an entire morning or evening. So, kick back with a cup of tea, put this record in, and let Bird’s music take affect.

Music Contest!

The Sequoya Review is looking for a musical act for their Release Party in April. Think you have musical talent? Submit a file or video and lyrics (if any) of a song that represents your style of music and what you would be performing to for judging.

Prize: An opportunity to play your music at the Release Party of the Sequoya Review at Stone Cup and a video that will be on the homepage of the Sequoya Review website.

If chosen, be prepared to provide a playlist to the judges. The date of the release party is still to be announced.

14 April 2010: The Contest is Closed. See you at the release party!