M83 “Saturdays = Youth”

Originality is a difficult thing to achieve in any art form.  The ones who break through the noise stand out: They sound familiar, but at the same time offer up something that feels new.  M83 achieves a wonderful balance of sounds that could easily be plucked from the eighties and his own synth-layered signatures.  This record gives me a warm feeling inside when I listen to it.  Yeah, I’m getting mushy, fuck it.  That’s what this album does for me!  That’s a large part of the listening experience for me.  Music can literally break me down emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually and pull me back together again.  Fortunately, this record sounds like the care-free Summers of my youth (sorry to steal a word from the album title), like Jones Beach on Long Island at dawn, or sunrise for that matter, sitting next to my crew of close friends.  It’s the kind of breezy record that, as silly as it may sound, would’ve lived happily on the Miami Vice soundtrack but manages to sound relevant and new.  Classic images of Don Jonson, mullets and formica aside, I’m really glad I picked this album up on wax.

There are so many bands trying desperately to replicate the sounds of the eighties.  This is a sore subject in our home; especially for my wife.  We’re both children of the Ferris Bueller generation so we remember it well.  Some are magical memories, other not so much (think spandex and Wham).  It’s puzzling to us; why so many bands are obsessed with trying to regurgitate the hair-sprayed sonics of that specific time period.  We understand that being fashionable sells, but some of these acts need to give it a rest already!  Now I’m not saying an artist isn’t going to absorb and express their influences.  This is an inescapable aspect of self-expression.  You soak up your surroundings like a sponge and that gets reflected in artists projects.  Unless they’ve managed to remove their life experience entirely from their work, and by the way please show me that artist – some facet of their life is going shine through.  As an artist I have to say it happens to all of us.  The bottom line is: If something sounds forced, if a band sounds like they’re trying too hard to be hip and the music seems superficial, then their aim is not what good art stands for (money, fifteen minutes of fame, etc.).  Unfortunately I think that’s happening too often in popular music today.  This is where M83 comes in…

Anthony Gonzalez a.k.a. M83

His work doesn’t sound forced or superficial.  While his often uplifting, cascading synth melodies and emotive Lynn drum-sounding beats are sonically reminiscent of the anthemic bands of the eighties, his work still feels modern and fresh.  Saturdays=Youth is aptly titled as well.  I’m not sure about his age, but this album is definitely the type of music I love hearing while I drive.  The album is sequenced brilliantly, aiding in its storytelling.  From the minimal, ascending piano riffs and mantra-like chorus of “You, Appearing” to soaring synthesizers framed by the lonely words of a fifteen year-old goth in “Graveyard Girl” the energy of the record ebbs and flows, making it an engaging listening experience.

Things start to pick up in “Couleurs”.  This song began to sound a little too Paul Van Dyk-ish for my taste at times (I can’t stand commercial euro-trance) but it’s not over the top.  It’s still great music to drive to.  It makes you wanna gun it and go.  ”We Own the Sky” belongs in a movie: A scene where the protagonist experiences some sort of revelation.  The song conjures images of walking the streets of our hometown with my closest friends when I was a kid.  We were untouchable, or at least we thought we were.  M83 mellows things out again with “Highway of Endless Dreams” and ends the album with an early Moby-style song with nothing more than a few floating synths.  The pitch shifts slightly throughout the track.  It feels like music for meditation.  The noise just washes over you.  This all sounds like complete bullshit I know, but it’s how I feel about this track.  Put it this way: I had to hunker down and do some research for this project I was working on and I couldn’t find any music that would act as a sort of accompaniment without distracting me.  I ended up putting this track on repeat numerous times.  It helped clear my mind, so it’s become a part of my “Chill Out” playlist in iTunes/Amarra too.

All the tracks have a similar vibe but it’s not a repetitious album by any means.  It’s moving and catchy.  There’s an audible thread that binds all the music together here that’s difficult to describe.   They also did a decent job with the pressing .  I think some of the midrange levels could’ve used a little boost, but overall the sound is dynamic and textural.  Check out Saturdays=Youth if this sounds like something you’re interested in.  His music makes me feel good and reflect on positive times in my life.  We could all use a little bit of that!


Michael Mercer is a veteran reviewer of music and audio components. He got his start working for The Absolute Sound as a teenager and then made his way over to Atlantic Records, working with the legendary producer Arif Mardin. Considered one of the leading "crusaders for personal audio", Mercer can be found writing for many audio publications on the Internet.

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