The title of M83’s latest effort, Junk, feels like a provocation because it is.
It could be read as winking joke — a sign that Anthony Gonzalez isn’t taking this too seriously. And while there are reasons to believe that’s the case, Gonzalez has already made it clear what this is all about:
“It’s a statement,” he told Pitchfork. “This is how people listen to music nowadays: They’re just gonna pick certain songs they like — one, two, if you’re lucky — and trash the rest. All else becomes junk.”
It’s almost as if he’s daring us to just ignore the whole thing. And you could.
Junk is a corndog drenched in cheese. With its lo-fi sci-fi synths, sweeping ’70s strings, sappy piano, splashes of RAM-era Daft Punk and, yes, sax solos, Junk blurs the line between kitschy sincerity and irony. M83 records have done this well in the past, and it works well enough on “Laser Gun,” “Road Blaster” and “Walkaway Blues” — songs that you can dance to, that use a lighter touch with the cheese and that feel fresh. Because while the ballads are in their own way just as playful, in theory, the novelty of a swooning, melancholy piano number wears off.
M83’s music has always been described as cinematic, and this is no different, though much of it sounds made for TV rather than the big screen. (He’s cited “Punky Brewster” and “Who’s the Boss?” as inspiration, so that makes sense.) If anything, it’s fun to imagine what wacky adventures and sentimental moments might be soundtracked by Junk’s songs.
“Do It, Try It” is a triumphant dance scene — the kind in which the hero wins over the uptight grumps around him, steadily pulling every last one of them into the dance.
“For the Kids” could play over a daydreamy montage of a woman’s fond and wistful memories.
“Moon Crystal” sounds like the end credit music for a campy sitcom about a family trying to make it work in their new lives on Venus.
“Sunday Night 1987”? Well, it sounds just like that if your Sunday nights in ’87 were lonely bummers.
In that sense, Gonzalez achieved what he set out to do. The problem is that Junk often feels more like a copy than an original. The songs that work best feel like his own take on ’80s camp, but most of it is just imitation. That’s fun for a little while, but like old sitcom reruns, their appeal is limited.
—Ashley Dean, HeyReverb.com
Love Streams continues to do what Tim Hecker does best: mix familiar, traditional musical elements with totally alien sounds that are probably whispered to him by Icelandic elves in the deepest depths of sleep. One of Hecker’s most powerful tools here is so simple that it is ingenious: the human voice. Hecker brought in the Icelandic Choir Ensemble and the formidable Johann Johannsson to give Love Streams that crucial human element that is so central to his work. The singing that echoes in and out of tracks like “Music in the Air” and “Castrati Stack” is so gorgeous and haunting that it makes me want to throw up and cry at the same time. Love Streams is the sound of a brilliant, fearless musician realizing his full potential for the first time.
—Benjamin Hedge Olson, PopMatters.com
Like most of the best classic post-punk that they turn to for inspiration, Parquet Courts draw from everyday life for inspiration. This can mean tributes to the dull, mundane minutiae, as well as gut-wrenching matters of the heart. Human Performance, the Brooklyn quartet’s latest album, is the result of an entire year’s work, whereas previous albums were made in a matter of days or weeks. This unhurried approach has given them the opportunity, lyrically, to dwell on a variety of subject matter, but has also opened the floodgates, musically, in terms of styles and level of sophistication. The album is incredibly broad in its palette and focused in its approach.
—Chris Ingalls, PopMatters.com
Other notable releases:
The Dandy Warhols, Distortland
Frightened Rabbit, Painting of a Panic Attack
Future of the Left, The Peace and Truce of Future of the Left
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Call It What It Is
The Lumineers, Cleopatra
Mayer Hawthorne, Man About Town
Colin Stetson, SORROW
Woods, City Sun Eater in the River of Light