M83 - Saturdays=Youth
Thu 10th Jul, 2008 Music Reviews 1206 viewsin
Parisian one man band/auteur Anthony Gonzalez (AKA M83) pretty much managed to unleash one of 2005’s most emotionally intense listening experiences in the form of his acclaimed fourth album Before The Dawn Heals Us, with the lush cinematic fusion of sweeping synths, rock stylings and falsetto vocals making many a critic’s end of year list. Three years on, this highly-anticipated follow-up Saturdays=Youth sees Gonzalez paring back the dizzying peaks that characterised his previous work (and indeed, seemed to be the main source of the immediate ‘love it or hate it’ response afforded by many listeners), in favour of a slightly more ‘conventional’ pop approach that still manages to preserve all of the potency of previous highlights such as Don’t Save Us From The Flames. It’s also a collection that, as its title suggests, sees Gonzalez looking back with nostalgia at his own adolescence.
Opening track You, Appearing certainly hints directly at the filmic opulence of this album’s predecessor, slowly emerging from tentative piano keys into a constantly building wall of shimmering synth pads and whirring harmonics, with Gonzalez’s phased vocal repeatedly intoning the hypnotic phrase “It’s your face”, but by contrast, the track that follows it Kim & Jessie is easily one of the more ‘straightforward’ pop tracks Gonzalez has turned his hand to in recent times. Occupying a similar mid-tempo synth-pop slot to the likes of the Midnight Juggernauts, while it’s certainly one of the most immediately radio-friendly tracks here, it comes across as rather flat compared to some of the more flamboyant offerings packed.
Graveyard Girl sees things returning to the M83 of old, as delayed-out brooding piano chords and skeletal-sounding synthetic drums slide beneath Morgan Kibby’s breathily icy chanteuse vocals, in an offering that carries more than a hint of early Simple Minds in its instrumental sweep, before the eight minute long Couleurs offers up what’s easily this album’s most dance-centric moment as pulsing tech-house rhythms build beneath an epic backdrop of New Wave synths that’s equal parts Violator Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk. By contrast, Up! represents perhaps the one real miss-step here, it’s attempts at Kate Bush-esque poignant emotion coming dangerously close to being reminiscent of a Eurovision entry, though it’s nicely made up for by We Own The Sky’s descent into stately synth-balladry, angelic backing vocals unfurling around Gonzalez’s own tones and a mounting wall of vaguely New Order-esque synths.
While some longtime M83 diehards are likely to be slightly disappointed by the more ‘straightforward’ nature of this latest album, Saturdays = Youth ought to keep Gonzalez’s fervent fanbase satiated for the next three years at least.
Check out www.ilovem83.com.