Children’s Hour

France’s M83 mines the dreamy landscape of faded youth for a sprawling new album

October 26, 2011

It’s been said that the best music takes you somewhere. For M83’s Anthony Gonzalez, recording the just-released disc “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” meant returning to his youth.

“Music is the only thing I’ve found to reconnect with my past,” Gonzalez, 30, says. “When I was in the studio working on the songs, it was very moving because all of a sudden I was remembering all these memories from my childhood, stuff I was almost about to forget. Because of the music, it finally appeared to me again, just like photographs.”

The French singer/guitarist’s nostalgia for a more magical time is reflected in the record’s sprawling scope. The grandiose and dreamy 22-track double-album features string sections, saxophones and a spoken-word interlude in which a young girl tells a story about licking a frog.

The band’s music still follows the script it established on its last disc, 2008’s “Saturdays = Youth” — joyous, ’80s-indebted synth pop (especially on the new record’s stellar first single, “Midnight City”) mixed with ambient instrumental interludes.

What stands out on “Hurry Up” are Gonzalez’s vocals, which are their most impressive to date. After logging time on the road with major-league arena rockers the Killers, Kings of Leon and Depeche Mode, Gonzalez sought to increase his range as a singer.

“Being onstage for them means so much,” he says of those bands. “The way they connect with the audience is truly incredible. Seeing them perform was like a lesson.”

Gonzalez says the new album, M83’s sixth, feels almost like a retrospective to him: a tribute to his childhood, his wife, a decade-old career, and the music, movies and books he loves. In many ways, he says, it’s the first record he’s made entirely for himself.

“I worked on this album thinking, ‘If people don’t like it, well, too bad. I just want to do something for myself for once,’” he says. “I had [certain] feelings while making this album. Hopefully people will feel the same thing, too.”

Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; with Active Child; Fri., 6 & 9 p.m., both shows sold out; 202-667-7960. (U St.-Cardozo)
Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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