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Album Review: Arcade Fire, Reflektor

November 1, 2013 in Album Reviews

Arcade Fire: Reflektor

Grade: B+


Release Date: October 28, 2013

By Zachary Kaczmarek


It must have been quite an interesting crossroads for Win Butler and his ragtag band of Canadian art rockers, deciding what direction to take on their fourth and much anticipated studio release, and having the option to crank out an identical record to widely popular The Suburbs or risk everything on a massive experimental double album that could challenge how their increased fan base would perceive them. Prior to 2011 when their third studio album The Suburbs, took the music world by storm snagging Album of the Year at the Grammys, Arcade Fire had written Funeral and Neon Bible, what many consider to be two of the most complete albums of the 2000s under their belt, and for many indie acts that would have been the pinnacle or ceiling of a career. The Suburbs broke through that ceiling, shattering any preconceived notion of their limitations with tales of societal vultures and nostalgia, laid on top of such vast and universally appealing musical diversity which was enough to stun the Gagas and Katy Perrys of the world setting off Twitter with thousands asking “Who the fuck is Arcade Fire?”, something the band ironically embraced by emblazoning the phrase on t shirts. It was a moment that rendered the view of Arcade Fire being indie and a semi-well-kept as a thing of the past, increasing their impact to a global scale. 

Following a sold-out world tour and a well-deserved break, the cryptic campaign to promote Reflektor began this past August, with unannounced chalk drawings and banners on the sides of buildings in major cities across the US, the surprising news that James Murphy the founder of the now defunct LCD Soundsystem would produce the album, and the release of the self-titled gloomy disco influenced single “Reflektor” featuring backing vocals from none other than David Bowie. But other than a few major details so little was known about what exactly Arcade Fire was aiming for, with the band releasing only the occasional video clip of a jam session with no audio, or posting small teasers of album tracks. Looking back on how secretive they went about controlling the release of details, it seems it was for good reason, because the vast majority would have doubted the unheralded mixture of art rock, moody disco, Haitian influences, and Talking Heads styled new wave.

Arcade Fire’s modern day version of a Greek epic combines the tale of Orpheus with their own tribulations begins with the highly infectious dark disco groove “Reflektor”, laying the groundwork for what is a 75 plus minute journey through a dimly lit world isolated from all surroundings and yet just close enough to yearn for some kind of intimacy. Murphy coats the album with a hazy modern disco sheen, erasing much of the Springsteen influence that characterized The Suburbs. The title track embodies this the style the most with the thick humming synthesizers, hand drums, signature 70s drum beats, topped off with David Bowie adding vocals during the bridge.

The core idea that Butler means to convey on the album and especially on the title track is that the 21st century generates isolation and a very casual disconnection in this online based society that supposedly gives people deeper insight into each other’s lives, voicing a deep concern for growing apart from bandmate and wife Regine Chassagne, mirroring how Orpheus loses his love Eurydice, with the lines “We’re so connected but are we even friends? We fell in love when I was 19 and now we’re staring at a screen.” Being no stranger to delivering emphatic album-sized statements they do succeed in connecting themes that at times seem disjointed and messy, evoking emotions that are conflicted and yet so removed and distant.

But where Reflektor lacks the dramatic sentiment of its predecessors it makes up for with daring musical inventiveness. Sudden time changes and mood shifts have been synonymous with the bands finest moments on older tracks like “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations” and “Suburban War”, taking moments that are already the epitome of gloomy and simply hurling them into a much heavier and darker realm without any warning. Similar moments occur here on “Here Comes the Night Time” with an intro featuring rapidly firing guitars and drums before stopping on a dime and simmering down with a danceable Haitian drum beat, warbled synth and a melodic refrain. The same odd Frankenstein-like process is repeated on the final track of the first album “Joan of Arc”, taking a rather abrasive punk beginning, something not exactly retrofitted for a band more concerned with aesthetics than blistering rage, and blending it with a rhythmic glam rock body.

Their finest moment on the album comes in the form of the high wattage rock n roll track “Normal Person” with ten tons of distortion and a whiny lead guitar in the chorus and the message that “normal” is a term to suppress individuals, as Butler depicts a reality that sounds like a plot from the Twilight Zone, asking the question “Is anything as strange as a normal person? Is anyone as a cruel as a normal person”, before delivering a perilous warning in the chorus “They will break you down till everything is normal now”. Then theres the outlandish blend of psych rock and reggae on “Flashbulb Eyes”, which doesn’t sound half as bad as one might think. Perhaps in the past Arcade Fire could have been somewhat vulnerable to being described merely as discontent indie rock, but the unexplored expansive sounds that they include on this record make it nearly impossible to make accurate comparisons to most other bands, or to box them in to a particular sound or label.

As to be expected, Regine Chassagne, the unspoken MVP in the background, provides a light to Butler’s cynicism and harsh realities with her angelic vocals that possess siren-like qualities. Despite the fact that she doesn’t have a track singing lead vocals like she did with “Sprawl II” or “Empty Room” on The Suburbs, some of the albums best choruses and bridges are due to her ability to channel such unfiltered emotion and beauty into condensed moments like the chorus on “Its Never Over (Hey Orpheus)”, or the bridge on “Afterlife” singing “When love is gone where it does it go? Where do we go?” The lyrics could be simplistic, complicated, or even in French as a lot of her verses in the past have been, but as she sings on “Joan of Arc”, “If you shoot you better hit your mark”, something she does very well when given the opportunity.

If there is one complaint about Arcade Fire’s statement of grandeur, it’s how it goes out with somewhat of a whimper, not with exclamation or closure. After carrying a heavy concept successfully for 12 tracks Reflektor quietly trails off on “Supersymmetry”, a soft ambient conclusion which doesn’t seem to do the album justice. Aside from a few missteps, Reflektor is for the most part spot on in achieving everything it set out to do, employing the concept of tying together a modern day world that they refer to as “the reflective age” with ancient mythology and intertwining their reliable art rock approach with new territory sonically. Hearing the dramatic swelling strings traded in for synthesizers on the majority of these tracks does cause one double take and listen multiple times to realize that this is in fact the same band that released “No Cars Go” and “Wake Up”, but it would be foolish to assume that Butler would take the beaten path and retrace the past. On paper a double album based on Greek myth with a Haitian soulfulness wouldn’t be the type of musical gamble that most bands would take. But  Arcade Fire finds themselves at point in their career where Win Butler and company can express their displeasure with the ways of the world, all while channeling the bizarre and making something incredibly palatable.

Essential Tracks: “Reflektor”, “Joan of Arc”, Normal Person”, “Its Never Over (Hey Orpheus)”

Watch Arcade Fire play “Normal Person” on The Colbert Report below:


Concert Recap: The Electric Fall Ball at the Sail Inn (Photo Gallery)

September 23, 2013 in Events

All photos by Zachary Kaczmarek

Fairy Bones 

Bears of Manitou




Zero Zero



Embry Alexander


Midnight Vitals


Bogan Via

Album Review: Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City

May 14, 2013 in Album Reviews


By Zachary Kaczmarek

Grade: A

It seems like almost a lifetime ago that Vampire Weekend burst onto the scene with their innovative and captivating style, though it was only a mere 5 years ago. At the time, fans were either frothing at the mouth with the band’s blend of punk rock, classical, electronic, and African influences which relied on odd drum patterns and a catchy guitar playing style, or repulsed because it was viewed as pretentious and snobbish. Lead man Ezra Koenig said in an interview with The Guardian recently that critics who were irritated with the bands image or sophisticated lyrical content, which has always been rich with cultural references to wealthy upper class society and other subjects that are not usually commonplace to the average music listener, made it seem like the band members “were rich idiots ripping off African music.” But since then they have become somewhat of a household name in their respective scene, and have shaken off any bland criticisms of being a fad that would soon fade into irrelevance. Modern Vampires of the City marks an unexpected turning point that strips away most of the influence from the previous works and attempts to start anew with a darker realist point of view.

When compared to the opening tracks on their self-titled album and Contra, “Obvious Bicycle” does not exactly have an instant hook factor, with a slow and balanced tempo on piano, and Koenig never employing his signature falsetto that made songs like “White Sky” so memorable. Only one track in and it feels like a record that was produced years down the road, reflecting on happier and more carefree days of the past. Much of the album takes on a similar stern tone, but succeeds in appearing mature and confident, not at all dull or lifeless. Koenig’s lyrics scream for resilience and some kind of clarification in a befuddling world, such as the one described in “Unbelievers”, singing “Got a little soul, the world is a cold, cold place to be/Want a little warmth, but who’s going to save a little warmth for me”, and in the rebellious chorus “Girl you and I will die unbelievers bound to the tracks of the train” which would have fit right in back in Bruce Springsteen’s day. The band has never been open to the idea of acknowledging any particular interpretation of their cryptic lyrics, but this time around the messages that Koenig’s brilliant songwriting convey are outlined to a certain extent leaving the listener with more clues than on the previous two efforts.

As the album progresses it eases into more infectious sounds, especially the classical piano track “Step”, which is based on classical composer Pachelbel’s, “Canon in D”, and is backed by a smooth thumping drum beat and a slight reverb over Koenig’s vocals. The song is also a key example of how some Vampire Weekend songs have buried messages, but yet the level of enjoyment is high regardless. It opens with the most memorable line on the album “Every time I see you in the world, you always step to my girl”, which without any context makes no sense, but is actually an homage to the underground rap group Souls of Mischief and their song “Step to My Girl”, of which Koenig is a huge fan. He also writes the one of his most clever phrases to date, “I just ignore all the tales of a past life/stale conversation deserves but a bread knife”, and nothing says coming of age like the chorus line “The gloves are off, the wisdom teeth are out/What you on about?”

The back end of the album provides a well-timed change of pace with “Diane Young” a rock n roll glitch punk track that is very reminiscent of their song “Cousins”, and the track “Worship You”, a song that draws very much from a band like the Violent Femmes with a fast paced folk punk style. But the real crown jewel of the album, “Ya Hey”, provides the bands heaviest work lyrically, and the smoothest musical transitions they have constructed. The songs title is a clever homophone for Yahweh, the Hebrew term for God, and the subject matter relates to Koenig’s Jewish heritage and trying to define his beliefs as he gets older. The pre-chorus transition from light synthesizers to an eerie classical piano line, which is perfectly executed by guitarist/keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij, captures the general sentiment of the song as Koenig sings “In the dark of this place, theres the glow of your face/There’s the dust on the screen, of this broken machine/And I can’t help but feel that I’ve made some mistake, but I let it go.” The chorus, a reference to Moses conversation with God in the Old Testament, hammers in the final nail with the lines, “Through the fire and through the flames you won’t even say your name, only ‘I am that I am”, and an angelic chorus singing beneath Koenig.

As the album comes to a close, “Hudson” touches on an image of a bleak world in the form of New York and the Hudson River with very pessimistic opening lyrics “Hudson died in Hudson Bay, the water took its victims name.” It’s a very anticlimactic ending, but a fitting one, as an album that delivered more mature spectacles than pop songs comes to a close. Vampire Weekend do not exactly take the logical next step in their follow up to Contra, but the end result is a complete effort that summarizes the bands short but diverse career thus far. The songs on Modern Vampires are the type that may require some research in an encyclopedia or on Google to completely understand, but on the other hand, musically there is so much to take in that full comprehension is not necessarily required to consider this record an instant classic, or to consider including Vampire Weekend in a class of elite songwriters for their generation.

“Cotton, Jane Doe” Live – decker.

March 4, 2013 in LIVE ON KWSS 106.7FM, SXSW, TMI TOP 5, TMI TV

“Swallow Hard” thats right he said it….what a magical performance by decker. in Sedona, AZ acoustic, raw, live, and beautiful. We love the amazing harmonies and closeness of the vocal lines that set decker a part from any other group in the US right now. This video definitely represents how amazing decker is live.

New Album Slider is available now

Find out more on decker. at

FREE MUSIC Downloads – Yoga Butt

February 8, 2013 in LIVE ON KWSS 106.7FM, Uncategorized

This mornings freestyle session for you to listen to and download. Andrew Duncan Brown, Marc Norman, Beef Vegan and Morris join the Hourglass Cats in a rendition of Yoga Butt.

Here is the original version song by Cori Rios from The Hourglass Cats


February 8, 2013 in Events

TMI is very happy to announce The Postal Service April 18th at Comerica Theater in Phoenix, AZ. WE have so many amazing concerts coming up and want to give you, our loyal listeners the VIP treatment! All you have to do is listen to TMI on KWSS 106.7FM Mon-Fri from 6 am – 10 am to win tickets. Check out all of our new concert announcements below…… and yes we have tickets to all of them!!!

February 15-16 48 West Festival Chandler, AZ FREE ALL AGES


March 1 Decker Album Release Party at Sail Inn




March 17 Flogging Molly, Pepper, at Tempe BEach Park for St. Patties Day

March 22-24 McDowell Mountain Music Festival featuring The Shins, The Roots, Edward Sharpe, Les Claypool, and many more at Margaret T. Hance, Phoenix, AZ


April 18 The Postal Service at Comerica Theater TIckets on Sale Friday February 8, 2013


TMI Record Club – Mother Mother “The Sticks”

February 6, 2013 in Events

Sasquatch! Music Festival

February 5, 2013 in Events

The line up for this year’s Sasquatch Music Festival was recently revealed….and to be as vulgar and low brow as possible, it gave me a musical boner. Mumford and Sons tops the bill along song some of the most innovative alternative musicians of today. Some of my favorites include The XX, Alt-J, Tame Impala and The Postal Service just to name a few. Seriously, I can’t name a band on this bill that I don’t love. Even Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are a welcome addition and sure to bring the party with them. On top of that we have classic innovators and masters of their own sound, Cake and Primus (3D). I’ve never been more excited about a show I surely can’t afford to go to. One can hope they stream it live on youtube. Check this flyer out and let me know what you think. – BV

For tickets and other info visit


January 30, 2013 in Events, SXSW, TMI TV

TMI is very excited to be bringing some of the hottest live bands the world has ever scene to SXSW this year. Our showcase / day party at SXSW this year will not fall short of a buzz worthy international event showcasing AZ’s own Kongos, Mergence, Iamwe, Decker, The Wiley One, Palms, Jared & The Mill, and Sara Robinson and The Midnight Special. Each of these bands brings a different musical element to their live performances. Each is unique in their own way of delivering their live sound. Our fans have definitely spoken when they sell out Crescent Ballroom like they have for the Mergence, Kongos, and Iamwe shows. TMI is very excited for the Sara Robinson and The Midnight Special Album Release party as well as the Decker album release party for “Slider”, both will be at The Sail Inn over the next month and half. Who knows, we might sell out the Hickory Street Restaurant in Austin, TX on March 15th at SXSW…. oh wait its FREE!!!! Well I guess we can look forward to a packed house wherever these bands play. Check out these awesome videos featuring some amazing live performances.

Kongos Live from their South African Tour

Mergence Live from Crescent Ballroom

decker. Live from Crescent Ballroom – Slider Promo

Iamwe Live from their Album Release Show at Crescent Ballroom

You can see Mergence and Iamwe live at The Sail Inn Saturday February 2nd with the rest of the bands heading to SXSW with TMI. Here is the Facebook Event Page for more details:

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