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Rob Huff

CD of The Week

Week of 4/11/16

    M83 - Junk (Mute)

    The most noteworthy (if undersold) aspect of Anthony Gonzalezâ??s output as M83 has almost always been its heart-on-sleeve quality. Even on 2011â??s beautifully bombastic breakthrough Hurry Up, Weâ??re Dreaming, the songs soared with the sense that he was as invested emotionally as he was technically in what he was doing, sax solos and all. Four years later, Junk seems to show him taking a different approach to things. From the album title to its freaky Fry Kid cover art, Gonzalezâ??s heart on his sleeve seems to have turned tongue in cheek. He almost presents like he wants to take the piss out himself as well as the â??80s that inspired him in the first place.

    The results are alternately often fun, occasionally frustrating, and always fascinating. After all, The Decade That Made Us wasnâ??t all cool college rock and John Hughes soundtracks. There were plenty of sounds that made eyes roll as easily as well up, and those are the sounds that Gonzalez deals in throughout this record. Have a soft spot for Bette Midlerâ??s Beaches era? Youâ??ll crumble like a cookie for â??For the Kidsâ? with its (seriously) stunning vocal turn from Norwegian pop goddess/Transmission fave Susanne Sundf?¸r, at least until the creepy kids chorus kicks in. Itching for a Netflix revival of Bosom Buddies? M83 has the new theme song covered via the jaunty â??Moon Crystal.â? Junkâ??s cup runneth over with riches from this corner of the nostalgia vault, and Gonzalez commits to these sounds and their execution with the same conviction that made hearts melt on Saturdays=Youth. The issue is that irony has never necessarily been a quality one seeks in an M83 album.

    Unsurprisingly, the albumâ??s most satisfying moments are the ones that heed closer to what M83 excelled at in the past. Single â??Do It, Try Itâ? and the Mai Lan-featuring â??Laser Gunâ? play like Hurry Up updated with urgent house piano. Elsewhere, Beck vehicle â??Time Windâ? draws a previously unseen through line between two artists, particularly Mr. Hansenâ??s Midnite Vultures era. â??Road Blasterâ? finds Gonzalez striking a more proper balance between aesthetics past and present, perhaps because he himself anchors the sax and synth squelches with his own vocals, something he doesnâ??t do nearly enough of on an album that takes such left turns from previous ones.

    Make no mistake, â??Midnight Cityâ? aficionados. This album is messy. Moreover itâ??s messy in a way that M83 has never dared to be before, and seems to buck at the immaculate quality of its predecessors. But then again, itâ??s messy in the way that the â??80s often were in the musical sense. That is part of what makes them, and now M83, so memorable. One personâ??s Junk can always be anotherâ??s jewel.

    **Donate $20 or more to Y-Not Radio this week to receive a copy of Junk as our thank you gift. Click here for details.
    Review by Rob Huff

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