Music Review: M83’s “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”

Midnight City by M83

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is M83’s two-disc, seventy-five minute declaration: the age of irony is over!
Well, maybe things aren’t as simple as that, but this album still feels like a definitive statement of intent in a musical era that desperately needs one. With the advent of countless Animal Collective rip-offs, chillwave, witch house, grunge nostalgia, tribute albums, and all the weird musical and contextual minutiae that has been gradually swelling up in the Internet age, there’s been a perturbing sense that we’re all headed in the wrong direction. Creativity seems to be eroding, replaced with nostalgia for musical eras and trends past. Writing for Slate, Simon Reynolds nails our modern musical ethos as one indicative of “a pop culture increasingly characterized by a compulsion to revisit and reconsume its own past.” So when Ernest Greene (a.k.a. Washed Out) releases an EP or album full of synth jams hyper-reminiscent of ‘80s italo disco, it’s not so much offensive–2009’s Life of Leisure is actually quite excellent–as it is demonstrative of a sort of cultural stasis. To put it simply, how can we make music history if we’re constantly obsessed with replicating past successes?
This is all heavy stuff, and I’ll be the first to admit that Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, an album deeply indebted to the synth pop of the ‘80s, doesn’t really answer this pressing inquiry into artistic values directly as much as it sort of disposes of it. It cuts through the whole discussion simply by virtue of being way too good. This is conversation-interrupting music; even the most obstinate of Internet forum-posters would willingly cease-fire a rant on the lack of values in modern music just to hear the part in “Intro” where Zola Jesus just totally nails her vocal part. I realize that this doesn’t quite address some of the potential criticisms a double-album ‘80s homage will invite, so I’ll extend my praise even further: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is the first album in a long, long time to sound both entrenched in the sounds of another era and somehow still completely fresh and exciting. Whether Anthony Gonzalez (frontman of and creative genius behind M83) is singing his warped version of a guitar ballad (“Wait”) or constructing impressionist landscapes of cascading synths (“Another Wave From You”) or shooting for the stars with the biggest, best chorus you’ve ever heard (like, 90% of the tracks here), it sounds like the magnificent result of a labor of love.
Even great “nostalgic” albums (Washed Out’s aforementioned Life of Leisure EP, Ford & Lopatin’s Channel Pressure, Ariel Pink’s Before Today) sound weak and diluted in comparison. It’s like comparing a great painting to an Instagram snapshot of the same work. Whereas lesser musicians clasp onto a certain aesthetic just to gain some sort of credibility or to reductively look back on better times (or worse: for “ironic”–gasp!–purposes), Gonzalez utilizes ‘80s synth pop’s unique aural bliss simply as a vehicle for propelling his smartly written and impeccably produced music into the stratosphere. For that distinction alone, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming deserves to be a modern classic.
–Alex Robertson, Arts Editor
Posted by on October 26, 2011. Filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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