Oct 20 2011

Review: M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

If Anthony Gonzalez’ breakthrough album Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts was a dreamy bedroom experiment, and it pretty much was, that means Before the Dawn Heals Us was a beautiful cinematic sleeper hit, and it also pretty much was. Let’s call Digital Shades Vol. 1 an itch Gonzalez had to scratch – it was an ambient pastiche favoring mood over substance (fingers crossed for no Volume 2). And then there was the masterpiece, Saturdays = Youth. Favoring over-the-top, pathos-driven production and theme, it was a brilliant homage to the 80’s, teenage angst, and young love. It was beautiful, near flawless. It has grown to be one of my favorite albums not just of 2008, or of the last decade, but of all time. It’s one of those albums you turn on before you drift off at night, it’s a cloud that sweeps you away.

So how does Gonzalez top what will no doubt be his finest work? An epic, two-disc conceptual album inspired by Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and childhood slumber. Over 72 minutes and 22 tracks, M83 brings together an array of sounds built around the theme of dreaming, and it really does sound like it. Gonzalez has always been great at building, rather than borrowing, from his older works; here you can hear the grand tinkering of Dead Cities, the bold soundscapes of Before the Dawn, the soft ambience of Digital Shades, and the captivating emotion of Saturdays.

But there’s something more; as with every album, Gonzalez continues to grow. He is now the prominent vocalist for his band, holding his own alongside the declarative Zola Jesus and previous collaborator Morgan Kibby. And his songs now are even more direct pop statements; rather than hinting at the idea of achieving soundtrack-worthy compositions in one part of the album, Gonzalez has stretched them throughout. There is a memorable melody around every corner, in between each instrumental interlude, each playful crescendo with laughing children, each soft acoustic strum.

Sure, it’s nowhere near the brilliance of Saturdays=Youth. Maybe it does run a little long, maybe there are a few too many short interludes, maybe there are slight flaws hidden around the strong highlights. But isn’t that why we love double albums? Their ambition? Their objective? Their adventure? As with any double album, this is meant not to be shuffled around for your commute, but to be listened to in one sitting, or two, or ten. It’s meant to be fully digested as a whole over and over again. And ultimately, that is a rewarding task. It may not be the best M83 album, but it’s certainly one of the best albums of 2011.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Listen to Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming on Spotify.