M83 - Junk - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

M83 - Junk

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:9 Release Date:2016-04-08

The 80s were great. Computers were just coming into their own, communism was on the downturn, sitcoms were in their prime, and the world was filled with a goofy sort of techno-optimism. And of course, the popular music has been unmatched since. Indie bands, however, have had a field day revisiting and reinterpreting the sounds of that era, and M83 is certainly one of the most obvious 80s-phile bands extant.

Amazingly, despite having been around for a while now, Anthony Gonzalez is still managing to churn out brilliant work. Junk, despite the uninspiring name, might be his best album yet. The first four tracks are just about perfect, leading with 'Do It, Try It', which gets off to a slow start but brings in the bombast soon enough. It's followed up by the bouncing grooves of 'Go!', fronted by the delightful singing of guest vocalist Mai Lan. Pretty much everything she touches on this set turns to gold. On this song she manages to instill a simple pre-chorus countdown with a real sense of tension before the big release that demands head nodding at the very least.

'Walkway Blues' is a sauntering piece, starting with a slow, mellow intro and bobbing along with so many little fun flourishes it's hard to keep up. The chorus is a mountain of hooks so intense it actually gave me chills, with vocoded vocals, synth stabs, and the first apperance of a saxophone, which shows up on and off for the rest of the set, generally to great effect. Mai Lan gets another turn at the mic for 'Bibi the Dog', a spacey French lounge tune that somehow weirdly recalls 'The Girl from Ipanema' at times.

Songs like the instrumental 'Moon Crystal' just scream 80s. And I don't mean neon ping pong balls. I'm talking about that hazzy, glittery, disco hangover stuff, Christopher Cross sailing away to New York City. But somehow it's not cheesy or embarassing, just charming and wonderful. Which to be fair, is probably what plenty of Cross fans would say about his work. Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age.

'The Wizard' swirls off into some extremely blunted, hazy chillwave that had me swaying back and forth with a dopey grin on my face, but 'Laser Gun' brings the energy level back up with a rolling beat and more perky vocals from Mai Lan. The punchy piano in the verses keeps things moving, and the up and down chorus is irresistable. And 'Road Blaster' harkens back to 'Kim and Jessie', but with a bit more urgency.

The album does get a bit bogged down from time to time, with tracks like 'Solitude', 'Atlantique Sud', and 'Sunday Night 1987' all sounding pretty listless and dull, beyond even ballads in their somnulence, compared to the many other more upbeat and interesting songs to be found in this rather long fifteen-track set. 'Time Wind', near the end of the album, gets an awesome boost from guest vocalist Beck, who channels some of his old disco funk prowess from Midnight Vultures. Fascinatingly, the song also sounds quite a bit like 'The Vagabound', the track he did on Air's 10,000 Hz Legend, in the early going, but blossoms into something much groovier, proving once again that Beck can fit himself into just about any style of music.

Although things start to taper off in the back half of the set, and it almost wears out its welcome, this album is definitely in contention for my best of the year right now. It's a gorgeous mix of the best sounds of the 80s with lots of modern retooling. Apparently there have been some rumblings of discontent based on the first two singles released, but those fears are unfounded. And I think a lot of listeners are just too damn cynical, unwilling to embrace the music with an unjaded ear because they're too cool for school. But make no mistake: this is a fantastic album that expands Gonzalez's range nicely.

Comments (7)

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The Christopher Cross reference scares me a little, but I'll be giving it a listen. The 80s fetish continues...

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Haha, referencing Cristopher Cross scared ME. But if you've got an 80s fetish, this will definitely satisfy it.

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I don't even know what an 80s fetish is anymore. Everything from Human League to The Pixies were in the 80s, Talking Heads, Prince and the whole new wave and...

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C86 thing, and early Detroit techno. I was a teenager and sucked all that stuff in...

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Good review. Taking a listen now.

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a good comprehensive review but sadly IMHO Junk is woeful, not a patch on his previous albums, overblown and dull and not a single memorable song - a shame :-(

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Different strokes and all that. From what I've read, this seems to be his most divisive album yet.

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