Premature Evaluation

Premature Evaluation: M83 Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

By Tom Breihan / August 31, 2011 - 2:19 pm

Anthony Gonzalez has spent the better part of three years working on the grand, expansive double LP Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, and it shows. The new M83 album sounds incredible, and it sounds incredible in the sort of way that lets you know real work went into every single synth-plink in the album’s 1.2 hours. Even in the odd moments when songs dissolve into fuzz as they end, that fuzz feels meticulously constructed; every sputter is in its right place. In interviews, Gonzalez has been saying that the album is basically every M83 album put together. And it’s true; you can hear bits of the digital shoegaze gleam of Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, the amber-tinted nostalgic hum of Saturdays=Youth, and, more than anything, the overblown synth-rock grandeur of Before The Dawn Heals Us. It’s a lot to take in.

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is one of those double albums that would fit onto a single CD, like Prince’s Sign ‘O’ The Times. And like Sign ‘O’ The Times, it feels huge enough that it deserves the double-album designation anyway; every early listen has revealed a few new tricks that I hadn’t noticed on previous spins. But this is where I stop comparing it to Sign ‘O’ The Times, since Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming isn’t constructed as some grand generation-defining arc; one track doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the next. There’s a lot of variation here, from the psych-folk rush of “Year One, One UFO” to the crashing orchestral flourishes of “My Tears Are Becoming A Sea,” but these different moods and ideas don’t really build on one another. Instead, they serve as a series of pocket epics. I listened to the album on shuffle once by mistake, and I didn’t even notice until about halfway through. It made no impact whatsoever on my enjoyment of the thing.

Heard as a serious of isolated tracks, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming can be just amazing; certain moments absolutely sparkle. Zola Jesus wails through her part on “Intro,” and I wish she would’ve sung on the entire album. “Splendor,” all hushed harmonies and spare piano tones, works as a long, contented exhalation. “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire,” with its sampled little-kid nonsense and its happy synth-ripples, is just charming in the most twee way possible. Virtually every track on the album seems custom-built to make everything around you look way more spectacular while you’re listening to it on headphones. If you’re the type of person who goes jogging alongside canals at sunset, this album should make your life immeasurably better.

And yet, the whole thing never really adds up to more than a series of pretty sounds. Every M83 album feels something like that, of course, but Saturdays=Youth, easily my favorite of Gonzalez’s albums, introduced a sort of bittersweet emotional punch to his music that felt, to me, like a breakthrough. There’s no equivalent here to the sound-worlds of “Kim And Jessie” or “Graveyard Girl.” Morgan Kibby, the White Sea singer responsible for so many of that album’s greatest moments, is almost entirely absent here, and her presence is missed. Gonzalez himself does most of the singing on the album, and his kinda-thin voice doesn’t have anything like Kibby’s warmth. There’s not a single weak track on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, but it still feels like a small step backward from that album.

Still, it’s a deeply impressive piece of work. And when videos for these tracks start coming out, I’m fully expecting to have my mind blown. Any video director with half an imagination should be able to do amazing things with any song here.

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is out 10/18 on Mute.