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Saturdays = Youth

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I have been following M83 for a few years now, and i had grown to like their music, which is electronic shoegaze. However, nothing prepared me for the new album. Saturdays = Youth is not an album of shoegazertronica, rather it is a throwback to the 1980s. This is a record of huge synth sounds, methodical drumming, and chiming guitars.

M83 is the project of one Anthony Gonzalez, who is obviously French. I mean, look at that name. (Side note: when did Gonzalez become the international last name of Europe? Anthony Gonzales the Frenchman, and Jose Gonzalez the Swede... Weird.) Gonzalez is obviously a fan of 1980s synth pop. Listening to any of his previous releases would tell you that, but on Saturdays = Youth he goes beyond admiration into the realm of fetishism. I have heard this described as "the soundtrack to the best movie John Hughes never made", and i think that is about right, and perhaps might even have been what Gonzalez was shooting for.

Consider, for example, Graveyard Girl, the second single from the record. This features a driving drum beat, echoey keys, layers of chorused guitar, and Gonzazlez's voice echoed and buried in the mix. It is epic in the sense that the sound is wide open and unstoppable, as music was in the 1980s, all huge vistas and vast distances to be crossed. There needs to be a video of a big-haired band playing this song in a wind tunnel atop a hill in Scotland. However, what makes this song cinematic is the bridge, where a female voice recites some pretentious goth poetry that sounds like a dialog outtake to some movie. It's wonderfully done in that glorious, big sounding, upbeat 1980s way, like some lost Psychedelic Furs track.

Kim & Jessie, on the other hand, is the OMD song on the soundtrack. The synths drive this over some mechanical drumming, as Gonzalez sings over layers of squealing keys. It has a really great beat, and the squealing keys would no doubt have filled the dance floor at any party i was at in the 1980s. Shame it comes out now. Do people even still dance to this kind of stuff, or is it only hip-hop and techno in clubs?

Continuing with the theme of identifying what 80s band each song is supposed to represent, Couleurs is an obvious New Order tune, with electronic drum beats and crunchy guitar over a bouncy keyboard riff. This is a great song, and despite sounding New Order-y, it is also very much in keeping with what M83 has been doing up to this point.

Sadly, the 1980s didn't just feature musical highs. There were, believe it or not, some things from that era i do not like. Such as Kate Bush. I can't explain exactly why, but her breathy soprano just irks me to no end. Unfortunately, Gonzalez works with a female vocalist named Morgan Kibby on two songs, Skin of the Night and Up!. Kibby does a dead on Kate Bush impersonation, and i honestly find these tunes kind of irritating. Up! is especially irritating in that it even mentions Kate Bush's annoying The Hounds of Love. Oh Gonzalez, how can you lead me astray like this?

But those are the only two low points on an excellent record, and i have to admit that the music that Gonzalez wraps around the breathy vocals on Skin of the Night is actually pretty good, all pulsing synth drum beats and echoed guitar.

I want to point out two other great tunes on this record. Highway of Endless Dreams starts with a silly spoken sample, then soars to epic heights under layers of guitar and synths. Meanwhile, the album closes with Midnight Souls Still Remain, a classic M83 ambient piece of wandering synth and keyboard drones. It ends the album in a nice hazy fade out...

Overall this is a really impressive album. If you loved the big cheesy 80s, then you need to own this. M83 belongs filed right in-between Love and Rockets and New Order in your collection.

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     12":  A Guitar and A Heart b/w Safe


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