From the start of M83’s new, two-disc album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, two things are clear – first, that the electronic mini-group has taken on a new mission, based around bolder vocalism and an influx of acoustic influence – and second, that they have succeeded, in spades.
M83 – the synth-fueled, indie-pop act spearheaded by 29 year-old, French-born Anthony Gonzalez delivers their best yet with Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – the group’s sixth studio record, and first attempt at a double-album compilation.
Gonzalez, who co-founded M83 with band-mate Nicolas Fromageau in 2001 has since split with his former collaborator and recruited several new members (vocalist Morgan Kibby, drummer Loic Maurin, and also his brother Yann), with whom he now records and performs live in both Europe and the US. And after developing relative notoriety from appearances with The Killers, Depeche Mode, and a UK run with Kings of Leon, Gonzalez decided to make one final change in early 2011, and move from France to Los Angeles to write and record Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.
The album begins brazenly, after a Zola Jesus-featured intro, with ‘Midnight City’ – a song-of-the-year candidate that has single-handedly propelled both M83 and Gonzalez to their highest recognition yet. The distinctive anthem – which carries MGMT-like size – blends the classic M83 synth-pop sound with heavy, drastic leads and a poignant saxophone testimonial, laying quite the groundwork for the newly ambitious approach that Gonzalez and Co. embark upon throughout the double album.
But unfortunately, the incredible mastery of ‘Midnight City’ is never quite met again, and given it’s early proximity, makes it hard to see the rest of the compilation as anything else but downhill – even if it’s a very shallow slope.
With that being said, the remainder is by no mean void of likeability. ‘Steve McQueen’ is another tune indicative of the progression in M83’s music – an electronic ballad written with a heavy, acoustic influence. The layered vocals and suspenseful drum arrangements prompt comparisons to the big names of new rock (Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, etc.), but the glittering arpeggios and unavoidable ambiance make it quite obviously M83; creating a refreshing blend that has driven the emergence of what one might call electronic indie-pop, most notably within acts like Gonzalez’s and fellow song of the year candidate Gotye (‘Somebody That I Used to Know’).
This progressive determination also stands out on ‘Soon My Friend’ and ‘Splendor’ – two harmonically psychedelic offerings that remind of the beautifully acoustic days of classic rock (maybe even Pink Floyd and the Beatles, respectively) – as well as within a half dozen short, interlude-like tracks that rarely last more than two minutes, but do not lack entirety.
These standouts, combined with a few random character testimonials (like the young girl on ‘Raconte-Moi’ recounting her experience with ‘a very special frog’) make Gonzalez’s fresh approach undeniable and beckon the idea that his ambition, if channeled more efficiently, could’ve made Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming one of the great albums of 2011.
But when it’s all said and done, M83 definitely delivers their best work yet. Enough to warrant an epically huge, double album? Maybe not – but Gonzalez has obviously propelled himself to a new level of singing, songwriting, and instrumentation – regardless of the final product. It is very rare to see such growth from an artist within one album (especially among electronic acts), but in the future, don’t be surprised if M83 makes the Arcade Fire-jump from indie-phenom to album of the year candidate. Just make sure you get the album.
Written by Andrew Judson Heindel
Follow A.J. at twitter.com/theandrewjudson