Monday, September 26, 2011

M83: Hurry Up. We're Dreaming

Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
Rating: Meh

Anthony Gonzalez, the main member of M83, has been building up to this album for quite some time. Moving from their initial more ambient releases, Gonzalez has shown mastery of shoegaze on Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, epic space rock on the brooding, intense Before the Dawn Heals Us, and emotional 80s referencing college rock/electronic music on his masterpiece Saturdays=Youth. The question is, how do you follow up an album that seemed perfect in every way? Gonzalez has mentioned in interviews that he wanted to make something that would be his, and this era's, defining statement. Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, is the result of a very short period of writing and recording, finishing up with 22 tracks all loosely tied together as a dreamscape. First listens are overwhelming; the beautiful and intense production values practically beg for either a great pair of headphones or playing the album at full volume. Unfortunately, subsequent listens, instead of being a treasure trove of missed details and surprises, reveal the album to be rather repetitive and unengaging. I always get nervous when a band wants to take a huge leap with a follow up to a classic album, I suppose the high from the success makes all the adrenaline cause delusions of grandeur, which few can translate into something seminal. Not that Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is a fiasco or anything. Seriously, there is a brilliant classic album lurking within these 22 tracks, however, the bloat and excess kill any flow that the album gets. Towards the end of the record you are just begging for it to be over with.

The beginning of the album starts with so much promise. The first five tracks are classic M83, full of analog synth swells and catchy melodies. Opening track "Intro" with Zola Jesus on vocals sets the bar pretty high, creating an excellent over-the-top but not quite calling card.

M83 - Intro (Feat. Zola Jesus) by edin2sun

And lead single "Midnight City" is one of his most goofy, catchy pop songs. Full of odd details like the hiccuping vocal sample, swarming synths, and even time for a cheesy sax solo straight out of St. Elmo's Fire.

"Reunion" is a driving, guitar led track, with an extremely catchy chorus.

M-83 Reunion by ProjectX1

"Wait" is a gorgeous ballad full of lush string swells, and a faintly Pink Floyd melancholy vibe.

M83 - Wait by Reike

Even the ridiculously goofy "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire" with blurping synths, plunky guitars, and seriously cute child-story sample, gets by on its charm and quirkiness.

Moi Une Histoire by icouldbeafish

These opening tracks really gave a false sense of hope for the album, as it was track after track of pure pop bliss, however, there is a long stretch of instrumentals and pointless tracks that stop the flow in their tracks. While there appears to be some melodic themes weaving through the record, it is rather indiscriminate and doesn't add much to the experience. You can see Gonzalez reaching for something grandiose and "important," but too often the songs just are filled with pretty instrumentation but lack any heart or through message. "Soon My Friend" and "My Tears Are Becoming A Sea" are perfect examples of how it is all surface but nothing inside. Things pick up towards the back half of the album, with the brilliant 80s funk-pop of "OK Pal," and the dense and rushing "New Map."

M83 - New Map by Drugs and Mirrors

But then, once again, the album bogs down with too many ethereal "important" instrumentals that are supposed to convey a sense of gravity to the album, but merely brings things to a screeching halt. I am not sure if the album was sequenced better if the experience would improve. I just grew weary with all of the fanfares and competing swells of synths, strings, and organs. Somewhere within this massive amount of songs is a great one disc record. Gonzalez still knows how to write a great pop song, he just doesn't need to overwhelm them within this excessive, bloated record. Further creating issues is Gonzalez' decision to sing more on the album. He has an uncanny ear for choosing excellent collaborators, however, his thin, reedy voice just can't carry a record of this magnitude. Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is too much too soon. Gonzalez had just found his "sound" and should have stuck a little closer to the Saturdays=Youth template before trying something this ambitious. This record, instead of being an unqualified triumph, merely becomes an interesting curio.

Rating Guide

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and peaks one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

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