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M83 – Saturdays=Youth (Mute)

22 April 2008

Aside from leader Anthony Gonzalez’s love of vintage keyboards, this is pretty different from the duo that knocked me out with 2003’s awe-inspiring Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts, and not just because Nicolas Fromageau left after that album.

The move towards more vocals and pop that weighed down Before the Dawn Heals Us is vastly more predominant here, but also much, much more successful; in terms of musical quality, this is a big comeback. Much credit is due vocalist/keyboardist Morgan Kibby (credited as a full-fledged member, along with returning drummer/guitarist/bassist/keyboardist Loic Maurin), not only because her breathy vocals are sexily intoxicating, but also for the variety she brings – I kept scanning the credits looking for another female vocalist, but it’s all her, including one of the best Kate Bush-soundalike turns ever (“Up!”).

Gonzalez also gets credit, because he has not just moved more towards pop, he’s also honed his songwriting skills and acquired a better sense of structure. Yeah, the chiming guitars and chord progression of “Graveyard Girl” keep threatening to turn into “Money Changes Everything,” but that fits well with the ‘80s love on display throughout – usually much more synthpop, of course. Gonzalez shows he’s still got the ability to craft lush, dreamily drifting instrumental soundscapes on the closing “Midnight Souls Still Remain.”