It would be a lie to say that listening to M83’s Saturdays=Youth is vaguely reminiscent of being transported back to the ’80s. Listening to M83’s Saturdays=Youth is incredibly reminiscent of being transported back to the ’80s. This is meant to be taken precisely as what you’re likely thinking: there were some fun things about music in the ’80s, but there were also some awful things about music in the ’80s.
The opening track is what would be expected for an M83 album — mellow piano melody with string-like synths fading in and out of the background, getting increasingly louder until highly altered female and male vocals enter, an all-together stunning example of modern electro-dream pop done right.
But then “Kim & Jessie” starts and it’s ’80s reminiscing time. It’s all there, most notably the hollow synths and flat drum machine. At first it’s forgivable, though, because it’s like the good bands from the ’80s. Like Duran Duran. Well. Duran Duran’s first album. Anyway. Then, like too many songs from the ’80s, it becomes a little too repetitive and goes on a little too long. But it’s not bad. Just… overkill.
The band coasts through a couple other ’80s styles, including the darker, gothic styles on “Skin of the Night,” and “Graveyard Girl.” By the time the half-way point hits, it starts to feel a little ridiculous, so they escalate past ridiculous into absurd with “Colours,” an over eight-minute snoozefest that, vocals aside, sounds like an attempt to mimic the Knife.
But the band seems to either get bored with the retro thing or anticipates that the listener will, and immediately after “Colours” switches to lighter, atmospheric pieces that sound more like the M83 that we’ve all been listening to up to this point. A few songs on the second half contain the synths and drum machines — “We Own the Sky” and “Dark Moves of Love” — but are more dense and constructed better. There is, however, another overly long, unnecessary snoozer at the end, “Midnight Souls Remain.” It’s not that long songs can’t be entertaining or that this band can’t make them interesting — because they have in the past — it’s just that the lengthy works on this album aren’t the best evidence of that.
The ’80s vibe is fun for awhile, but M83 is smart to tone it down halfway through. Though they do bring a bit of updated flair to the style, the work is less substantial, less earnest. It doesn’t hold up as well through repeated listens. It’s a joy at first — but by the third or fourth play-through, it’s too redundant. Saturday=Youth isn’t the band’s best work, but in terms of a young, summery album, they’ve made a solid attempt.