Music

M83: Saturdays=Youth

Anthony Gonzalez revisits his youth affectionately, but without the angst.


M83

Saturdays=Youth

Label: Mute
US Release Date: 2008-04-15
UK Release Date: 2008-04-14
Amazon
iTunes

Saturdays=Youth is Anthony Gonzalez' postcard to his teenage years. The fifth studio album from M83 has been built up for its more solid song structures and its production team, which includes Ken Thomas (Sigur Ros, Cocteau Twins) and Ewan Pearson (the Rapture, Ladytron). Well, M83 will never get quite to straightforward radio rock, though they come close a few times on Saturdays=Youth.

The CD booklet credits not only Anthony Gonzalez but Loic Maurin on percussion, guitar, bass, and keyboards, and Morgan Kibby on vocals, piano, and keyboards. While the project is still primarily Gonzalez' own, Kibby's rich voice blends nicely with his own light tenor, and if she becomes more of a permanent resource for Gonzalez than a guest vocalist it will be a welcome addition.

Saturdays=Youth is full of the nostalgia of the memory of the kind of big, bent-out-of-shape nights that you can have often at 18, once in a while at 24, and almost never at 30. And in general, M83's shoegazey drones and layered synths are well suited to this kind of sepia-tinged memorializing. But these memories seem to be dulled somehow, and it goes along with the sound of the album. The layered guitars and keyboards are significantly toned down vis-à-vis earlier M83 work, and there's none of the bite of Before the Dawn Heals Us or the upbeat drive of Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts. Instead, there's a stronger '80s vibe through much of the new album. It's in the echoing drums and the New Order synths and the whisper-over-crash shoegaze aesthetic.

As the album progresses, Gonzalez seems to realize that his strongest material is not in the imitation of straighter song forms, but in the more extended electronic atmospherics that are closer to where M83's previously been. "Couleurs" is exemplary, and part of a sequence of four songs in the middle of the disc that are among the album's most compelling. "Couleurs" is Gonzalez at his most synaesthetic – eight minutes of expansive, looping keyboards, and whooping percussion. It's easy to let yourself be lost in these overpowering textures. On straighter songs like "Up!", recognizable melodies are allowed to luxuriate for once in the foreground of the sound. That song does something interesting: the short introduction is much fuller in texture than the rest of the song, and it's never returned to – instead, the song wanders off into the looped refrain "If I clean the rocket…" with a completely different timbre. But the album's epic heart is "Too Late", a slow-growing and restrained ballad. The piano waves build and fall, as Gonzalez sings, his voice's edges smoothed out by the computer, "If you are a ghost / I'll call your name … You, always."

Still, it is a little disappointing that the point of Saturdays=Youth kind of misses the point. The more conventional "song"-like material does have something of M83's stately grandeur but feels somewhat hollow, probably because the slow-burn's integral to the act's power. And when, as on "Skin of the Night", the two songwriting methods collide, you reach a junction at which you realize that Gonzalez doesn't really know how to stretch the original idea out in that form, so that the last three minutes feel artificially tacked on. In this context the ambient, 11-minute finale also flows by without leaving much of an impression. That's fine for an entirely ambient album like Digital Shades (Vol. 1), but here it does feel like filler.

So Saturdays=Youth isn't an unqualified success, and probably won't be as warmly welcomed by fans as M83's previous albums have been. Still, there are plenty of moments on the disc that remind you why this pulsing, layered music is so powerful. Something seems to be holding Anthony Gonzalez back. Let's hope it's not a permanent retreat.

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.