"When you're young, you can do anything. And the more I grow up, the less I think that way. Through my music, I'm really trying to convince myself that I can do it. It's like therapy," says Anthony Gonzalez. For a guy that started making music on his laptop in his bedroom, he's going into some awfully daring territory in Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. But that really seems to be his point: dream big. There's no room to be shy about it. M83, a synth-pop shoegaze band made up of one single French dude, Anthony Gonzalez, has never known for being subtle. But Hurry Up, We're Dreaming makes his previous work sound like a mere warmup. The Peter Pan-esque dream world that M83 has crafted is a strange and quirky place to live in over the course of its 72 minutes, but once you fall for it, there's no going back.
My first few listens through the album sparked something of a personal journey inside me, which I wrote about in an article here. Its as if M83's willingness to go forward and create an album this monumental was so absurd that it challlenged the cynic inside me to do the same. I started out wondering if Gonzalez had gone a bit over the top which this whole epic double-album pop thing. After all, these are just pop songs and he's still just singing about following your dreams and falling in love. Furthermore, it doesn't help that M83 isn't exactly subtle about this kind of stuff.
What I really found liberating about the album though was that throughout the album Gonzalez's desire to open up and take chances really drives the music in Hurry Up. The best example I could give is the opening track "Intro (feat. Zola Jesus)", where Gonzalez sets his ambitious intentions for the double album. Zola Jesus whispers some stuff about deserts and light and real worlds and stories before Gonzalez showcases his new, confident vocal style. Where Gonzalez' vocals were once hushed and timid, he is now singing out the top of his lungs in what sounds like a cross between Phil Collins and Animal Collective. The synths are bigger and more extravagant; the drum beats aren't afraid to be upbeat and exciting; the songs simply aren't afraid to let go and simply do what feels good.
But that does not, by any means, mean that the album is not properly thought out either. In fact, Gonzalez has mentioned in interviews how happy he was when he finished the album because it turned out exactly how he had planned it to from the beginning. The album plays in two parts very intentionally -- as mirror images, each song on each album has a corresponding song on the other. This clever structure gives the album unified and succinct feel that is so unlike the "collection of songs" that make up most albums. There are plenty of moments of both quiet solitude and grandeur -- but it all feels like one sweeping expression of one ambitious vision. While I have a couple minor gripes in the mixing and arrangement, there's nothing here that's keeping me from enjoying every single track on this album.
With all that said, I can totally see why some would be turned off by this album. Its overambitious. Its pretentious. Its "trying to take on the world". If for no other reason, on "Raconte-Moi Histoire", M83 lets a little girl talking about frogs take the vocal lead, while the album also features lyrics that a child could have written. But like anything, its easy to brush off art that "takes itself too seriously" in a conceptual way. To me its rare to find music in our postmodern culture that isn't wholeheartedly tongue-in-cheek or utterly apathetic that still retains some shred of sincerity and artistic dignity. Hurry Up is not only the best thing M83 has ever done, its also one of my favorite albums of the year and one I won't soon be forgetting.