Throwback Album Review: M83 — Saturdays = Youth

Just a quick glance at the album art of Saturdays = Youth, you get the idea that M83 (Anthony Gonzalez) has a predilection for the teen nostalgia world of an old John Hughes flick. If the artwork isn’t enough of a hint, the listener is reminded subtly, yet frequently, as Gonzalez takes us on a spine tingling ride, a cinematic dreamscape where the girls (to quote “Graveyard Girl”) “worship Satan like a father, but dream of a sister like Molly Ringwald.” Despite the album’s oft-cited laundry list of pop influences, headed by the one and only Kate Bush, Gonzalez creates his own surreal moment that defies easy categorization. Herein lies the uniqueness of his album: the juxtaposition of emotions. Pieces that may seem joyous at first soon evoke the feelings of melancholy and even sorrow, while still adding an element of vitality struggling against all that opposes them.

Saturdays = Youth is a synergetic blending of influences whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The album’s centerpiece “Colours,” the most danceable of the collection, seems like four minutes rather than eight — a glossy (though not overproduced) track that glides by until it hits a peak that sounds similar to a rubber ball bouncing down a spiral flight of stairs. Another highlight, “Skin of the Night” meshes background vocals so gorgeously that the listener will be tempted to push repeat before the song fades into “Graveyard Girl.” The stunning range of production throughout makes it tough to pick favorites though; the album’s first five tracks are highlighted by focused songwriting while the last half is far more spacey. Gonzalez was recently quoted as saying, “There is no irony at all in my musical relation to the 80s. I really can cry when I listen to Kate Bush or Simple Minds.” But ultimately, Saturdays = Youth is an album that evokes the spirit of 2008; the ’80s merely serving as a vehicle to take us there…and into the future. [BL]

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