Arcade Fire’s ‘Afterlife’: No Longer Thinking About Death

“Reflektor”, the debut title track of the fourth album from Montreal alt-rena rockers Arcade Fire, certainly sounded like a new direction for the band, but longtime fans knew that was the same old ArcFi under James Murphy’s funkified production and inexplicably infuriating papier-mâché heads, singing in French falsetto about the kingdom of the dead and stressing out about how every last one of us is going to die alone despite whatever ephemeral electronically assisted human bonds we may have formed during our time on earth, or whatever.

“Reflektor” may have caught our attention, but ArcFi still needed a solid Coachella track to solidify Reflektor as a legit contender for Album of the Year for a Certain Demographic. Something that would sound good wafting along on the cool desert-night breeze alongside churro smells, something over which you could imagine the girl next to you in $200 cutoffs and a daisy crown squealing “I LOVE this song!” That song is “Afterlife,” which just premiered on the BBC yesterday and today gets a lyric video featuring clips from Marcel Camus’s Black Orpheus. It’s got everything you could possibly want from a Coachella anthem: ethereal female oh-ooohhs, chirpy staccato guitars, and buzzy synths anchoring what I wanna go ahead and classify as “Car Commercial Chord Progression No. 7.” In case you were wondering, there’s a really high crossover between Coachella songs and Car Commercial songs. I’m already figuring out my Coachie dance game for this one — I’m thinking a medium-stance-alternate-heel-downbeat-stomp-with-arms-at-sides is a good foundation from which to work — and scheduling an auto loan consultation at my bank at the same time.

But most significantly, this song marks a turning point! Instead focusing on our bittersweet time on earth and our slow march toward death, Win Butler & Co. have shifted their focus to what comes after death. Butler wonders, “Can we work it out?” then suggests, “Let’s scream and shout till we work it out.” This isn’t the first time ArcFi have considered dealing with unpleasant situations with loud vocal outbursts, but this time, Britney’s two steps ahead of them. Still, I’m more than happy to hear this song at every casual BYOB birthday patio party from now till April. It’s not boring, it’s occasionally emotional, and can easily trick you into thinking something momentous is happening in your life. Just like Coachella (and car commercials)!

Filed Under: Arcade Fire, James Murphy

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Emily Yoshida is an editor at Grantland.

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