I unabashedly love M83. No questions asked, I'll listen to whatever he puts out and will almost certainly love it. I was really excited when I heard his new album Saturdays=Youth was going to be very '80s oriented. Most of his stuff already has some under- and even over-tones of the 1980s, but to know that he would be creating an album that specifically had that in mind was good news to me. And while M83's last record, Digital Shades Vol. 1, was strictly ambient music and something he'll return to for at least one more album, it's not where M83 is headed permanently (for now, anyways). Saturdays=Youth marks a significant change in his work and it seems to be something that will follow M83 in albums to come.
So in case you couldn't tell from even the album cover alone, this record sounds like it's from the '80s and it has themes of being young, carefree, and everything you remember about growing up. From the first song, You, Appearing, you can tell right away this is a different than the rest. Gone are the sonic synth soundscapes. Saturdays is filled with songs that follow traditional song-like structures. Verse, bridge, chorus, repeat. That's not to say the tracks found on Before The Dawn Heals Us or Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts aren't songs. Of course they are songsand they work great as stand alone pieces but the ones found on Saturdays sound like some of your favorite '80s pop songs. They have a distinctly different feel to them.
Graveyard Girl is a prime example. There's lyrics like "She collects crowns made of black roses but her heart is made of bubble gum" and "She worships Satan like a father but dreams of a sister like Molly Ringwald." (I guess the video makes sense now.) Not only does it describe this girl, it even sounds like it was written by her. Some 15 year old girl writing poems about her tragic day to day life. Only M83 could pull it off. He is ideal for making this record. Everything he does is dramatic, epic, and at times, cheesy (in a good way), just like a teenager. I'm sure he knew this album would eventually happen. Before The Dawn Heals Us even has a track called Teen Angst. Anybody who was surprised by the sound of this new album hasn't been paying attention.
Though no matter how much a departure this is from previous M83 records, this is still undeniably M83. Even if you've never heard Saturdays before, you could tell from a mile away who it is. Which is a good thing. That's one of the reasons I love M83, for his distinction. But before I get too carried away (I know, too late, right?), I need to say that Saturdays=Youth has what is hands-down the worst M83 song to date. It's called Up! and it's found right smack in the middle of the album. I must've listened to that song 8 or 9 times before I said to myself, "No more! Get over yourself and just skip the god damn song." I very rarely skip songs on albums. It never happens that I dislike a song so much to do so. I'll just let it play through. But I'm not sure what anyone was thinking when they decided to keep Up! the final album. It definitely should have been edited out.
The only other problem I find with Saturdays is the final 11 minute track called Midnight Souls Still Remain. It's a very pretty, albeit unremarkable, soothing synth drone. It seems unnecessary, almost like an add-on so fans couldn't get too angry at his new style. It might have fit on Before The Dawn (and maybe not even then), but not on Saturdays. Those, however, are the only two things that I find fault with on this record. It's great in every other way and if you have an affinity for the '80s and it's unquestionably good music, pick this up. And if you're a fan of M83, you should already have it.
And of course I feel the need to let everyone know about M83's current tour. He'll be visiting Canada and the USA, with a stop here in Boston at the Middle East on June 2.