Top 5 albums of 2011

1. M83- ‘Hurry Up We’re Dreaming’

Over the past ten years M83 have carved out a niche in the vast and varied genre that is electronica. The sound they have developed, which involves layering many synth lines, one over another to create a massive sound has been applied to several genres over their discography. But it has slowly been tilting away from instrumental pieces that focused on shoegaze and progressive to a more pop aesthetic. This is where their new album comes in.

‘Hurry Up We’re Dreaming’ is a double album containing a total of 23 tracks, which would usually worry me. Artists can stretch themselves on double albums leaving them feeling like a lot of filler or losing flow and direction, feeling more like a few albums tacked together than a double album.

M83 have avoided this beautifully and in really clever ways. Their music has never been more appealing on first listen; tracks like ‘Midnight City’ and ‘New Map’ stand out as little bundles of instant joy. Then on repeat listening you start to gain a real appreciation for some of the others.

Two of my favourites are ‘Wait’ and ‘My Tears are becoming a Sea’. These both have a real feeling of longing and both progress to powerful conclusions. The delay on the vocals at the end of ‘Wait’ sounds like someone pining for affection and on ‘Tears’ you are left with a tidal wave of sound that overpowers the earlier vocals. It gives me the same feeling I get when looking at the stars on a clear night, feeling completely insignificant. No mean feat for a track under three minutes long.

That doesn’t mean all the tracks are steeped in a weighty depression, in fact quite the opposite. The song ‘Raconte-Moi Une Histoire’ features vocals from a child explaining the outcomes of touching a magic frog and reminds me of the Lemon Jelly album, ‘Lost Horizons’. Although at first this track felt throw away, on repeat listens it reminds me more of tracks like ‘Yellow Submarine’ by the Beatles. The lyrics of the song may fall on the silly side but the quality of the production makes it accessible rather than annoying.

Now in reading this you may be worried about how tracks so varied could flow in the context of an album. Luckily M83 deals with this superbly and in a way that will appease fans of his earlier work.

He does this by using progressive instrumentals. Some behave in the way a bridge in a song would link a verse to a chorus, linking sad songs to joyous ones. Other instruments work like a palate cleanser resetting your mind for the next collection of tracks.

Needless to say this album is fantastic. It does exactly what an album should by taking you on a journey throughout its seventy nine minutes. As digital distribution has increased we have started to hear albums that feel like a collection of singles rather than full works, it’s refreshing that ‘Hurry Up We’re Dreaming’ is the opposite. Even though individual tracks are some of the best this year, they all contribute to make the album greater than the sum of its parts.

The journey this album takes you through is a winding and varied one managing greater range of emotion than most albums I can think of. From contemplative insecurity to euphoric joy this album has it all, sometimes on tracks directly after one another.

This is a journey I have taken many times already and I will continue to take for years to come.

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