M83’s endearing tendency to go for the jugular every single time has allowed their entire catalogue to be easily lumped into a staggering pile of grandiosity. Yet, with over a decade of hyper-sensory dreamgaze to their credit, the diversity of their oeuvre is often overlooked. The group was originally formed in 2001 by Anthony Gonzalez and Nicholas Fromangeau, and their humble beginnings in big-beat sentimentality and introverted minimalism shifted dramatically with 2003’s Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts. While this masterful synthetic odyssey was the beginning of the end for Gonzalez and Fromangeau (Fromangeau would leave to spearhead Team Ghost, which is worth a spin for Dead Cities loyalists), Gonzalez evolved further with the sparkling neon space-gaze of 2005’s Before the Dawn Heals Us. The wistful Saturdays=Youth and the arena-shaking juggernaut Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming introduced M83 to the masses, but after several years of being out of print, the band’s first three albums were re-released on CD, vinyl, and digital download last week. Mute Records will also digitally release remix and B-sides collections for Dead Cities and Before the Dawn Heals Us on September 9th. To celebrate, we took a look back at M83’s catalogue and compiled a list of their very best tracks.
15. “Cyborg.” “Cyborg,” from 2003’s unnerving Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, is a mini tour de force of 16-bit innocence that morphs abruptly into a veritable shoegaze horror show of isolating feedback. Anthony Gonzalez and longtime collaborator Nicholas Fromangeau would part ways shortly after the release of the album, and “Cyborg” was the last time M83 would venture into such direct paranoia.
14. “Skin of the Night.” Driven by guest singer and instrumentalist Morgan Kibby, “Skin of the Night,” from 2008’s Saturdays=Youth, is a serpentine, synth-driven siren song reminiscent of Treasure-era Cocteau Twins, only if Elizabeth Fraser were a lovelorn ghost haunting a downtown parking garage.
13. “Moonchild.” Whereas M83’s previous output dabbled in the possibly endless universe within us, the exhilarating “Moonchild,” from Before the Dawn Heals Us, immediately explodes that concept, blasting to the nether regions of the solar system via a relentless banshee wail of what sounds like the collision of every instrument in M83’s arsenal. For the first time, M83 was epic.
12. “I’m Happy She Said.” A mournful organ and skittery electro hi-hat are countered by the warm optimism of a glockenspiel amid a flurry of aggressive breakbeats. Everything ultimately segues into silence only to be reborn moments later into the devolving static from whence it came. It’s all there, folks. The full experience: the poignant microcosm that is fleeting teenage love.
11. “Intro.” Guiding us into the reverie of M83’s conceptual vision, the intro to 2011’s double album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, utilizes a gentle synth line periodically ignited by the unabashed yelps of Gonzalez himself. “Carry on, carry on,” he cries desperately into the ether. By the time Zola Jesus drops in for a cameo, “Intro” has already erupted into unforgettable stadium-rock heaven.