Monday, November 7, 2011

ALBUM REVIEW: M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

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By Danny Spiteri.

M83 is a project that I’ve seen described as many things: "dream pop", "synth pop", "indie electronic", and even "shoegaze". Finding a single most accurate genre description is something that no one seems to really agree upon, and I'd argue for its irrelevancy anyway, but there is one word that seems to be used almost universally: “epic”. I was very hesitant to even bring up the word considering how commonly it is thrown around, but at the risk of sounding lazy I have to admit it's a very effective descriptor. M83 songs are written in a manner that sounds deeply intent on making some sort of grand statement. Take that and pair it up with how well-placed these songs are on their respective albums and you have a very sizable end result. It's a quality that made previous M83 albums so strong, and what ultimately set the project apart from being "just another dreamy electronic pop band".

With Hurry Up, We're Dreaming we have an album that seems to be much more self-aware of its epic nature. The fact that it's a double album could be taken as a statement of grandiosity in itself, even if the 74-minute running time is relatively short for something that spans two discs. Looking within those discs, we find numerous interludes, dramatic vocals, and even a string and brass section that shows up on a few tracks, none of which were present on previous M83 albums if you don't count the interludes on Before the Dawn Heals Us.

And although I do slightly prefer the more subtle execution of an album like Saturdays=Youth, I can't deny that these new flavors this album takes on do make for some gratifying moments. M83 spearhead Anthony Gonzalez's newfound vocal style brings a sense of power and urgency to the project's sound, contrasting his usually more understated approach, and thus allowing the album to explore a new level of emotional range. The aforementioned string and brass arrangements also lend a highly cinematic color to tracks like "Wait", "Soon, My Friend", and "Outro".

These arrangements aren't the only new sounds to show up on the album too. The track "Midnight City" sports a saxophone solo that wouldn't feel too out of place on Destroyer's Kaputt. "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire" is built under a little girl's spoken narrative about a frog that induces curiously psychedelic effects when touched. The fairy tale-like aesthetic of this story combined with the uplifting instrumentation makes me feel almost like I'm watching a Disney movie. The flamboyant "Claudia Lewis" even heavily features slap bass that calls back the heyday of 80s synth funk. The overall character of that track actually feels strikingly similar to something Prince might have done. All of these new flavors run the risk of being considered cheesy, but fortunately enough they worked for me.

Not all the changes this album embraces do pay off for me though. The previously mentioned interludes spread throughout the two discs ended up being one of my biggest issues. The music contained within those interludes is by no means offensive, but in the context of the album they only serve to interrupt an otherwise strong flow. Instead of seizing a useful opportunity to create smooth transitions between the album's more developed songs, these tracks tend to breeze in and out without much direction or purpose.

The production is another area that leaves me wanting more. Rather than carrying the dense, thick sound that drew me to previous M83 albums, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming feels a little flimsier than I'd like it to. Much of the time, I just can't help but feel like the album drowns in excessive reverb.

But am I disappointed with this album? Well, maybe just a little, considering how much I enjoyed Saturdays=Youth. But ultimately, M83 hasn't left behind the qualities that make their music so compelling. The songwriting is still stellar, the personality is bolder than ever, and the alluring sense of dynamic the project has been bringing to the table hasn't lost its place. M83 has succeeded once again in making a highly ambitious pop album, continuing to mind the importance of truly memorable hooks, yet ensuring that the accompaniment that surrounds those hooks comes out strong. It may not be perfect, but it's powerful; it's another step past the boundaries of M83's past work, but it doesn't forget to take the right elements of that work with it.

Overall Score: Decent 8


  1. fact: everyone on ypoiw will write about this album at some point.

  2. fact: Kyle overreacts to this album all the time

  3. I'm actually not a huge fan of this album, I mean... It's good, it's just not particularly interesting.

  4. Kyle...Your personal opinion is just simply wrong..