Weekend Recovery: New Empire’s Soaring ‘Say It Like You Mean It’

I think we can all agree that even so much as thinking about the various commitments that lie ahead this week—let alone the swiftly approaching holiday season, swear I already saw somebody in a Santa costume, dear lord—would be to sap the precious little energy we’ll need to endure it all. Good thing there’s some stirring, sparkling, Australian relief in the form of New Empire’s latest single, which flies as close to the sun as music ever can.

“Say It Like You Mean It” appears on the four-piece band’s third LP, In A Breath, out in January. Till now, New Empire has been gaining momentum on their home turf, but this widescreen pop track sounds like a group poised to blow up Stateside in a serious way. There’s little doubt they’ve been listening to 21st-century John Hughes homages like M83’s Saturdays = Youth, though who could complain about that? There’s plenty more emotional pomp and stratospheric hooks to mine in that vein. Now we just need an empty football field to fist-pump in.


There’s Something About This New Song By The Killers

I think this may be a safe space to admit that I’ve listened to the new song by The Killers, “Shot At The Night,” about a thousand times since finding out it existed. I had only the best of intentions—to see how production by Anthony Gonzalez of M83 would suit the band, really—and I was just blown away. And still, something more than the patent uncoolness of The Killers was nagging at me.


As good as the track is, it seemed with its splashy drums and retro-synth refrains to hark back not just to an era but a very specific song—one I had been similarly obsessed with at some point. It was only when I took to my Spotify playlist of music featured in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (those guys have great taste, deal with it) that I realized what I was hearing: “Shot At The Night” is basically the long-lost twin of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love.” Sorry if this ruins one or both of these songs for you, but the world needs to know:

M83 Soundtracks Upcoming Tom Cruise Film ‘Oblivion’

So this new Tom Cruise movie, Oblivion, where he plays an ex-Marine returning to an evacuated Earth to rid the last of its alien invaders, doesn’t look like the most exciting movie that will be out all summer, though it does feature lots of people we like, including Olga Kurylenko, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo and Morgan Freeman, who are all pretty ecxcellent.

But, the soundtrack, helmed by Anthony Gonzalez’s dreamy French pop quintet M83 and Joseph Trapanese, is as vast and unsettling (in a good way) as the film’s title. The bulk of it even feels like the moving of a spacecraft of some kind across a barren, dystopian wasteland, which I guess, if that’s what you’re going for, is a good thing. One of the high points is a new spacey M83 track, which shares the film’s title and features Susanne Sundfør and her commanding voice. Listen to some selections below, via SoundCloud.

I’m Quite Sure I Don’t Understand The Video For M83’s “Steve McQueen”

Every song tells a story. No wait, I’m thinking of books. Most songs are just songs, which is why they don’t need visual accompaniment. M83’s “Steve McQueen,” the best track off 2011 stadium-pop double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, is a great example: it’s a pure sugar rush with almost gaudy momentum. But here’s something to watch at the same time I guess.

I don’t know if I’m way hungover or this was just too French for me wrap my headache around. It’s a somewhat spooky night and there’s a kid in a yellow suit who has designed and set up what looks like dancing audio equipment, but it all appears to be in service of a different goal: bringing his toy animals to life and marching them into the crux of a giant fireworks/sprinkler display.

So also this video won a video-making contest (there’s one way to cut down on costs and brainstorming sessions) in which the only guidance about “Steve McQueen” from M83’s Anthony Gonzalez was that “It’s not about the actor!” Which was a tough pill to swallow for me, since I was planning to submit a montage of him riding that motorcycle in The Great Escape.

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You Guys, The ’90s

As an idiot millennial twentysomething, I cannot legally blog for a week without mentioning that I love the hell out of some 1990s. Take for example these Archers of Loaf reissuestotally rad. I haven’t gotten around to the original versions of these albums, though, because I’m still working through the early stuff. Someday!

Speaking of ‘90s music, can you believe that the M83 song “Midnight City” samples Bill Clinton playing saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show? MIND BLOWN.

I mainly love the ‘90s because I was ten years old back then. Not for the whole decade, but I’m pretty sure I was ten somewhere in there. With a mushroom cut. Also Bugle Boy sweatsuits. In a few different color patterns.

My parents didn’t let me watch a lot of TV, but I can tell you there were great shows on back then. Easily the best was Legends of the Hidden Temple, which was like if GUTS were about Indiana Jones instead of getting pelted with Nerf balls. (Oh yeah, Nerf!) My favorite episode of Hidden Temple was the one with the giant talking stone head. And, if you absolutely forced me to choose, my favorite episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? has to be the one with the campfire.

Hey, come back: I remember some other stuff about the ‘90s. Like how the police were caught on video beating up O. J. Simpson. The Yankees were unbelievably good the whole time. Nothing was cooler than yo-yos.

And we all knew that global warming was real.

Get Decked Out Like a Rock Star in Kicks From M83, Socks From Big Boi

If your commitment to your favorite bands is at the level of dropping some serious change to dress like them, well, thanks to some recent new accessory launches, you can make that happen from head to toe. Beginning last month with the announcement of Los Angeles designers Keep collaborating with Bon Iver to design an adorable, kitten-friendly sneaker, a number of musicians have announced similar sartorial designs. Last week, OutKast’s Big Boi, himself a style icon perhaps more recognized for his dapper suits and bow ties, has declared himself the “sock king” and plans to collaborate with Crooks and Castles to design a line of designer socks for the stylish but active emcee on the go. Perhaps there will be a deluxe edition of his upcoming album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors that will come with a pair of his socks included.

Also available on the footwear front is a new pair of Chuck Taylors designed by the dreamy pop group M83. The white, celestial-patterned sneaks, which feature the band’s name crudely scrawled along the side, will run you $65 and are available online. Which made us wonder: is wearing the band’s footwear to their show the same as wearing their shirt in terms of concert-etiquette bad form?

If you’d prefer to express your affinity for one of the biggest metal acts in the world through Guy Fieri-esque (thank you, Marah from the AV Club, because really, there’s not really a better way to describe them) headwear, most notably a pair of sunglasses designed by frontman James Hetfield that many middle-aged dudes will probably wear around the backs of their heads, or while headbanging. The “Hetfield”shades, designed by the rocker and Sutro Eyewear of San Francisco, will cost about $219.99. Sutro says the Hetfield fram is “designed to take whatever a 24-stop eastern European tour can throw at it,” while Hetfield describes the glasses as “built to look faster than a speeding riff and to handle the life of a road dog like me.” Road dogs, take note. 

M83’s “Reunion” Video, With The Same Creepy Kids

Creepy kids have always been a part of music videos, but they’ve been popping up more and more over the past couple of years, from MGMT’s "Kids" to Skrillex’s "First of the Year – Equinox." Last year, creepy kids of the luminous-eyed, telekinetic powers-possessing variety were the subjects of the video for M83’s single "Midnight City." In the video for the second single off of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, "Reunion," the kids are back, stronger than ever, and now being tracked by some sort of government intelligence-gathering body of some sort. You can probably guess who wins out in the end. The song itself is lovely too. 

Fleur and Manu, who have also won acclaim for videos for Tricky, Bag Raiders and others, directed both music videos. Watch them, in order, below. 

Deciphering the Pitchfork Readers Poll

Sure, it may be a brand-new year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take some time to reflect back on what was awesome and what was terrible from last year. People love giving their opinions and others love to hate said opinions! It’s pretty much the only thing to read on the internet in the last two weeks of the year, so it’s unsurprising that it’ll carry over to the first business day of the new year. Take Pitchfork’s year-end lists, for example: the staff lists were full of considerate and well-written criticism, which is somewhat dissimilar to the point-of-view of most of the site’s detractors, who still associate Pitchfork with pretentious hipster snark. The 2011 Pitchfork Readers Poll, on the other hand, does without the commentary, and instead compiles lists of the so-called best albums of the year, as well as the most underrated and overrated albums. 

The list of Pitchfork’s readers’ favorite albums of the year is not so surprising. Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, M83, James Blake, and Girls all top the list, meaning it was yet again another stellar year for sensitive dudes and their emotions. It’s nice to see that other Pitchfork favorites like St. Vincent, PJ Harvey, tUnE-yArDs, Feist, and Lykke Li also made it into the boys’ club of whatever we’re calling the broader genre of "indie rock" these days. 

What’s more entertaining, however, are the next two lists of the most under- and overrated albums. Panda Bear’s Tomboy and Radiohead’s King of Limbs is made it not only in the top 50 but also the overrated and the underrated lists. The Strokes’ Angels is the sole album that only shows up on the underrated list; the others, which range from Childish Gambino to Yuck to Wilco (Wilco! So underrated!), show up on the top fifty list. I guess means that The Strokes are actually the only underrated band of 2011. What a long way they’ve come from the heady days of 2001 when I couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing "Last Nite."

Of course, the list of the most overrated albums is hilarious, because Bon Iver’s self-titled release takes the number one spot just as it does on the top fifty list. The collection of overrated albums also includes popular titles like Adele’s 21, Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto, Foster the People’s Torches, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV,  and Florence and the Machine’s Ceremonials, none of which showed up in the readers’ favorites. 

So what have we learned here? Some people who read Pitchfork really like Bon Iver! And also some people who read Pitchfork do not like Bon Iver. They also don’t care for bands and musicians with chart-topping albums (unless, in the case of some of them, they are fans of Bon Iver). But I think the most important part is that we can all agree that The Strokes are so underrated; it’s really unfair that no one ever talks about that band! A fascinating study, for sure!

[via Annicka]

With His New Album, M83 Proves Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Listening to French dream-pop act M83 is a bit like falling down the rabbit hole. To fully appreciate their soaring, melancholic pastiche, it’s best to indulge in a bit of synesthesia, allowing Anthony Gonzalez’s sweetly plaintive lyrics to conjure the sights, smells, and tastes of adolescence. Over the past 10 years, the band, led by 30-year-old Gonzalez, has put out six records, each one building off the last. The result is this autumn’s magnum opus, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, an epic, two-disc album that smolders with yearning for a simpler time.

If 2008’s Saturdays = Youth provided the perfect sonic accompaniment to an imagined, post-millennial John Hughes film, then M83’s latest effort evokes something more personal and mature, albeit still rooted in the cinematic. “It really does feel like a movie,” says Gonzalez. “I was working with the idea of providing the soundtrack to my life.” The album encompasses the vastness of Terrence Malick, the teenage beauty of Sofia Coppola, and a sprinkle of David Lynch’s haunted vision. “It’s like a roller coaster, and it needs to be, especially when you make a double album. You need to make sure that it moves around, that it’s not all stuck in the same place.” To write the album, Gonzalez sojourned to Joshua Tree in the California desert to cloak himself in quiet, accompanied only by his two keyboards and a computer. “I like composing on the road. I like to be alone in a place,” he says.

While movies clearly inform Gonzalez’s sound, it’s his childhood that provides the main inspiration for Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. “When I first moved to LA in 2010, it was a new environment and a new city, which is hard at first. I felt lonely, and so I started to remember myself as a kid, the things I used to dream about,” Gonzalez says. Even on his purely instrumental tracks, he manages to create an atmosphere vivid with nostalgia, but the feeling is one of hope rather than loss. “I’m more creative when I’m thinking about my past. This album is a tribute to those years of my life. I was dreaming as a kid, and I’m still dreaming as a grown-up.” With Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Gonzalez proves he’s evolved from post-youth confusion to adult curiosity. “I have more expectations, and I really think that I’m only starting to be a musician,” he says. The best, it seems, is still yet to come.

Photo by Anouck Bertin.