M83 – Saturdays = Youth (Mute Records)

On M83’s fifth full-length (counting 2007’s ambient one-off Digital Shades Vol. 1), leader Anthony Gonzalez switches gears from post-rock mindfuckery to a post-millennial update of synth-driven 80s new wave pop. There’s always been hints of Cocteau Twins and Kate Bush’s influence on M83’s albums, but now they’re displayed proudly. They even dip into some ’80s cheese that recalls dreck like The Thompson Twins. Such a drastic overhaul is a risky move – after all, if you don’t pick up new fans and you alienate the old ones you’re left with nothing – but M83 navigate these waters well enough, making the most of seemingly dated sounds while maintaining their knack for affecting songs and sweeping melodies. More psychedelically inclined fans will miss the brain-scrambling sounds of previous peaks like “0078th” and “Teen Angst”, but there’s still layers of cosmic shoegaze noise sprinkled subtly throughout Saturdays=Youth, especially the radio-ready singles “Kim and Jessie” and “Graveyard Girl”. The only misstep is “Couleurs”, a repetitive disco song that sits in idle for nine-minutes. Look past that and you’ve got yet another solid and surprising album from an outfit that refuses to settle into predictability. 

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