REVIEW: ‘Junk’ is M83’s newest masterpiece

m83 junk review

Artist: M83
Album: Junk
Label: Naïve Records, Mute Records
Genre: Synthpop

I still remember when I first heard “Midnight City.” It was the end of August 2011, and I was just starting college. I was in my dorm room, and someone across the hall had the song on. I couldn’t hear it very well, and I was much too socially awkward to walk over and have a conversation with this person, but as soon as I got unpacked I went and looked up the song. I instantly fell in love with the synths, drums, and James King’s killer sax solo. This proved to be a sign of things to come for Anthony Gonzalez’s M83, as Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was a magnificent album, and a critical and commercial success. I am happy to say that the band’s newest album, Junk, is an equally, if not more, brilliant musical experience.

What initially drew me to M83 was how unpredictable the music is, but how much Gonzalez makes that unpredictability work. On “Do It, Try It,” the album’s first track, the intro of the song is backed primarily by piano. It seems we’re settling into an upbeat but ultimately mellow opening. Thirty seconds in, the song suddenly erupts into a cascade of synths and drums. It’s unexpected, it’s attention grabbing, and it’s completely in line with what to expect from the album.

The songs swing from euphoric and danceable beats to introverted and somber piano. The presence of purely instrumental tracks sprinkled throughout the album works brilliantly to ferry the listener through the shifts in the album. Of these tracks, “The Wizard” in particular grabbed me. The first half of the song is heavily muted, like listening underwater. Halfway through, the music suddenly crystallizes and clears, signaling we’ve moved to the next section of Junk. In a lesser producer’s hands, the experience could feel forced or fall flat. Thankfully, Gonzalez and Justin Meldal-Johnsen’s production is crisp, clean, and expertly crafted. If there is one minor gripe I have with the album, it is that these shifts can be intense, and might take the listener out of the experience at times, but it mostly works.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the features on Junk. Gonzalez has a habit of bringing the best out of whoever he works with, and there’s no exception here. Susanne Sundfør’s vocals on “For The Kids” are spectacularly haunting, Beck brings his usual musical genius to “Time Winds,” and Steve Vai’s guitar solo on “Go!” might be the best guitar solo to happen so far this year. The real star of the album, however, is French singer Mai Lan. Appearing on four tracks, Mai Lan completely steals the show during every appearance. Whether singing in French or English, she provides an instant spark of energy, and the pop sensibility her voice provides fits perfectly within the album, especially on the hook of the ultra groovy “Laser Gun.”

Junk ultimately shows that Anthony Gonzalez is still one of the most innovative, unique, and fun voices in music today. If you loved Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming you’re already a believer, and Junk is definitely a worthy follow-up to convert new listeners.

SCORE: 9/10

Junk can be purchased digitally through iTunes, streamed on Spotify, or purchased physically through M83’s website.

Gabe Aikins

Gabe Aikins resides in Michigan and writes with his trusty 18-year-old cat by his side. When not writing, he is more than likely working through his back catalogue of video games or reading a book. Follow him on Twitter to listen to him give opinions on pop culture and yell about sports.
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  • Josephine

    Noice, I’m going to get the cd tomorrow