The M83 brand of dream-pop always suggested both the hopes and nightmares of children, obscured and enhanced by fuzzy production slathered on like finger paints. Anthony Gonzalez’ sixth album under that moniker, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, contains elements and decisions that indicate this is his first “big-boy” release.
For this album Gonzalez moved from bedroom setups in the south of France to the urban maze of Los Angeles, and it puts a decidedly different spin on things. Where M83’s sonic sprawl once seemed to come from fear and isolation, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is full of invitations to adventure. There are varied references to science fiction and other fantastic voyages (“When Will You Come Home?”); “I’m on my way,” for example, is the central mantra of “My Tears are Becoming a Sea.”
Even as Gonzalez carries M83’s load ahead of guest spots by the likes of Zola Jesus, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming at last feels made by a band instead of by studio geekery. By filling songs like “My Tears” and “Wait” with unashamed horns and strings atop explosive, echoing drums and guitars, Gonzalez solidifies his reputation as a sucker for slow builds and expansive arrangements. Multiple times, the album threatens to deliver an indie-pop “A Day in the Life.”
There’s unspoken homage paid to Animal Collective through Gonzalez’ stronger-than-ever vocals (the powerful pop of “New Map”), lyrics submerged to a fault (“Steve McQueen”), strained melody (“Splendor”), and noisy 4/4 hypnosis (“Year One, One UFO”). Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming finds M83 bringing the contemporary back into the John Hughes fold found on Saturdays=Youth. Sounds from 1980s Top 40—The Fixx, Talk Talk, Debarge—meet modern high-pitched pop in songs like “OK Pal” and first single “Midnight City” as if they were the best mashups never made.
Put out a double album when the music could fit on a single CD, and you’d be accused of a cash grab. Yet splitting 73 minutes across two discs fits this M83 album just right. Gonzalez’ music is fueled not just by particular 1980s atmospheres, but lately that decade’s concept albums and movie soundtracks. Switching a record or flipping a cassette was an act of commitment on the part of the listener. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming isn’t a perfect album, but the desire to hear how both halves form the whole is a sign that the drama of the track listing is working.