After previewing a few songs at their New Orleans show this week, Arcade Fire have announced their sixth album, WE, which will be out May 6 via Columbia. It was co-produced by Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich and the band's Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, and recorded in New Orleans and El Paso. There's also a song featuring Peter Gabriel ("Unconditional II [Race and Religion]").
They had an album's worth of material ready to record when they started recording in February 2020, but then the pandemic hit and they ended up writing many more songs. "It was the longest we've ever spent writing, uninterrupted, probably ever" Butler says. Despite the abundance of material, the album is a tight 40 minutes. According to the press release, the first side is titled "I" and is "about our troubles," while the other side, titled "WE," is "about our love for one another."
Win Butler writes about the concept of WE in a statement, concluding with "The hipsters called it jazz / The hippies called it love / And we call it WE." You can read the whole thing below.
The first single is "The Lightning, I, II," a sweeping two-parter that grows from swaying, synthy ballad -- with a piano hook that evokes Sondheim's "Somewhere" from West Side Story -- into a driving rock song. The video, directed by Emily Kai Bock, plays off the title and puts the band in the eye of the storm. Watch below.
The album art features a photo of a human eye by artist JR that is meant to evoke Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. The image was embellished by artist Terry Pastor whose airbrush technique granced the covers of David Bowie's Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust albums.
Age of Anxiety I Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole) End of the Empire I-IV
The Lightning I, II Unconditional I (Lookout Kid) Unconditional II (Race and Religion) WE