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Arcade Fire's 'Reflektor' takes time to decipher

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Brian Krasman
Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, 8:08 p.m.
 

‘Reflektor'

Arcade Fire (Merge)

★★★½

There are records that you know, from the first time you hear them, you either love or loathe them. There are others that take years to decipher, digest, and diagram, and even then you're still not quite sure. Arcade Fire's fourth record “Reflektor” certainly falls into that arms-length category.

Funny, because this band has made classic, sure-fire, know-you-love-them classics including “Funeral” and the Grammy Award-winning “The Suburbs,” but they can be weird and off putting when they want to be, and “Reflektor” is full of those moments. It's long, challenging, often uncomfortable, artistically rewarding and tragic simultaneously, and sure to end up on top of a lot of best-of and worst-of album lists this year.

There are some great, touchstone moments from the disco-clashing title track to the Haitian-inspired rocker “Here Comes the Nighttime” to the confrontational “Normal People” to the dark, subdued “Afterlife.” Then there are things that don't go as well, including “It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)” and “Porno”that are admirable for their ambition but just miss the mark.

Regardless of how you feel — I'm starting to love it — you have to give Arcade Fire credit for their bravado on “Reflektor.” They could have turned in an easy collection of anthems but instead chose to challenge their audience. Challenge accepted.

‘No Blues'

Los Campesinos! (Wichita)

★★★★

Welsh sextet Los Campesinos! practically own this century's patent for heart-on-their-sleeves, teary-eyed, bloody-nosed pop songs about mangled love, misplaced emotions, and well, death. They've been a pleasure to behold over their first four full-lengths, all released since 2008, but really hit one out of the park on their new “No Blues,” their fifth.

The 10-track, 41-minute record is full of emotional hooks, clever lyrics, heartbreak, and laughter, and they even sound more musically mature this time around, mostly due to singer Gareth Campesinos' deepening voice. But their added seasoning doesn't mean their songs aren't still so catchy you could catch a party on fire, and they hammer you with quality over and over on the huge choruses of “What Death Leaves Behind”; the bloopy, spacey melodies of “Cemetery Gates”; the darkness meets cheerleader chants on “Avocado, Baby,” the album's highlight; and “The Time Before the Last Time,” that's buzzy, moody, and a little smeary.

Hard to believe this band has been so productive and still so good, and “No Blues” might be their best record to date.

‘Obscure Verses for the Multiverse'

Inquisition (Season of Mist)

★★★★

Two-headed black metal monster Inquisition are back with a fairly disturbing new record that's rife with cosmic chaos, alien origins, and Satan, quite naturally. Though Satan isn't exactly the horned devil guy, but instead some other destructive force that Inquisition channel perfectly.

On their sixth record and first for Season of Mist, the duo of Dagon and Incubus deliver weird, mesmerizing, pulverizing black metal complete with creaky vocals (think Immortal's Abbath) and devastating sounds on songs that claim titles you're going to have to Google in order to fully understand. Tracks such as “Force of the Floating Tomb,” “Spiritual Plasma Evocation,” and “Inversion of Ethereal White Stars” not only will bend your brain, they'll also treat you to some of the finest black metal released this year. Raise the chalice, indeed.

Brian Krasman is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.

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