Back in 2005 I knew nothing of M83, perhaps a single I’d heard on the radio or a song in a playlist made by a friend, but other than that I didn’t really know much of the French musician Anthony Gonzalez’s work until the summer of that year at Lollapalooza when I saw him perform live. That performance completely entranced me with its complex and overlapping electronic tracks and simple drum beats which didn’t leave my head no matter how hard I tried. I was immediately hooked, and was resolved to listen to all three of his then released studio albums and vowed to myself that if he ever released anything new again I would not pass it up. Thankfully, that decision paid off as I discovered M83’s newest release Saturdays = Youth and proceeded to listen to it obsessively, though much to my surprise it wasn’t something that I could get behind immediately. If you’ve listened to any of M83’s past few albums, you may be in store for a bit of a readjustment from what you’re used to hearing.
As opposed to some of the previous M83 albums which feature rich electronic textures of overlapping melodies, fast beats and catchy riffs, Saturdays = Youth offers something almost entirely different from previous works with much more negative space, repetition and slower beats. Until my 3rd listen it felt as though the album was mediocre – something derivative of ’80s pop and sold short the creative potential of Gonzalez. On the 3rd listen I left my biases at the door and really started thinking of the record as a next step instead of a complete change stylistically. I realized the aim of the album was for something more wide-reaching than their previous albums. The gradual buildups leading to grandiose codas may best be seen on the first single released on the album Colours which clocks in at a seemingly ridiculous 8:34, giving the strong impression that M83 really doesn’t want any significant radio play. Then again he may have intentionally made one of his best songs on the record too long for most conventional radio stations to play.
Whatever the reason, there’s no doubt this is a positive direction for M83. This album didn’t have any particular song that gave me the same chills that the catchy “Unrecorded” or the electronic heavy and intense “Asterisk” did from M83’s previous releases, but it did have an appeal unique to the album. It’s certainly an adjustment, but if you give it a chance there’s plenty to like about Saturdays = Youth.