james debate
james debate

Sunday 4 June 2023

Genre Synth-pop
Label Virgin
Producers Anthony Gonzalez

m83 fantasy best new album 2023

Every band has that one album that's so good that it serves as a milestone against which all future albums must be compared. For M83 that album is 2011's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming.

Considered one of the seminal albums of the 21st Century so far, it's proven an unsurprisingly high bar for the French synth-poppers to meet. The immediate follow up, Junk, marked a major change in direction and was met with decidedly mixed reception, while the fully instrumental DSVII represents the only other output we've seen in the years since. 

Now, some 12 years later, we finally have a genuine successor to Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, Fantasy. An album which very nearly achieves the impossible.

Musically, Fantasy takes a page from its illustrious predecessor. The heavily 1980s influenced dreamscapes return, with imagery and texture inspired by the films of your childhood. But there's an added edge here, something drawn on the indie and shoegaze roots of M83's earlier work that keeps the music from sounding like empty nostalgia.

It works very well, these songs are excellent.

Lead single Oceans Niagara is just pure 1980s adventure film. It's the Goonies, it's The Neverending Story, it's The Last Starfighter. A mainly instrumental track that is at once wistful and romantic, yet explosive in the "chorus". It's a perfect summary of what M83 are all about in musical terms.

Much of the album follows this formula, drawing you in with the welcoming synths of a Hollywood score, before achieving lift off through an ecstatic wall of sound. A prime example being Amnesia, another radio-friendly number that drives forward with a chorus that's practically tripping over itself to break free.

As with M83's previous work, these euphoric highs are broken up by moments of introspection; the day-dreaming Radar, Far, Gone, the reckoning of closing track The Dismemberment Bureau. But the album's high points are undoubtedly when M83 goes bold. The mid-album epic Earth To Sea, might just be one of the band's finest tracks yet, certainly one of the biggest, most soaring.

In its best moments, the music of Fantasy is as good as anything M83 has ever recorded, possibly with even higher highs than Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. Yet there's something that holds this album back from true greatness.

Hurry Up, We're Dreaming was not just a collection of great songs, it was a great experience as a whole. When you listen to that album from start to finish, it feels like going on an adventure, with emotional beats that follow the narrative course of an epic movie or novel. And much like a great movie or novel, when you reach the end you feel saddened, like something has ended. 

Fantasy doesn't quite evoke the same feeling. These songs are great, but there's no single thread running through them, one song doesn't logically flow into the next in the same way. This doesn't feel like a single journey all the way through, rather a collection of unrelated ephemeral moments. Thirteen really excellent things rather than one really excellent thing. 

As a result, Fantasy never really feels more than the sum of its parts in the way that its predecessor did. It is an excellent album without doubt, perhaps one of the best of the year, but it never quite reaches that zenith to place it alongside the truly great albums of our times.

Must Listen :
Earth to Sea
Oceans Niagara
Dismemberment Bureau

Newer Post Older Post Home