In February, dream pop machine M83 put out a public call for a new touring keyboardist in light of Morgan Kibby’s departure from the group. A month later, a news release announced seventh LP Junk and the addition of Kaela Sinclair to the upcoming tour. This is nothing new: Jordan Lawlor, responsible for vocals in “Walkaway Blues” this recording cycle, was recruited back in 2011 the same way.
But for the most part, frontman Anthony Gonzalez does the recording.
Five years and in no hurry after double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Junk is the climax of M83’s earlier dreamstate. Its fifteen tracks are the slightest bit more concrete, its influences more diversely-sourced, and its internal variety more moody than before. “I want to show different sides of me on this album,” frontman Anthony Gonzalez said. “All my albums have layers of eclecticism to them, but with this album I wanted to take that even further.”
Gonzalez is obsessed with eclecticism and he does show it here, hence the ragtime piano and Daft Punk-y vocals on lead single, “Do It, Try It.” The rest of the album follows suit, offering a 15-course meal of contrasting flavors and textures, across–and sometimes–within tracks.
“Solitude” is reminiscent of Dean Hurley, with thick organ and soulful vocals; “Road Blaster” is a jazzy, happily syncopated swing piece; “Sunday Night 1987” does an almost Icelandic vibe, with sweet synth and warm horns. “Time Wind,” a late album track featuring Beck, is the second most popular non-single tune, next to “Walkaway Blues.” The latter’s heavily digitized vocals and space Fx leave Beck’s usual electro-influenced sound far behind in the new technological age. M83 also reprises on Junk with Oblivion soundtrack feature vocalist Susanne Sundfør on “For the Kids,” a song that layers Sundfør’s clean jazz vocals over contemplative saxophone and a spliced youthful monologue.
Gonzalez continues a history of working with younger musicians, employing French singer Mai Lan on four of Junk’s tracks. Of these, “Atlantique Sud” follows a symphonic, emotive theme similar to the Sundfør. Its lyrics overlap in male and female voices, fusing into a tender love song.
“Je prends de l’altitude / Je pense toujours a toi / Attends moi dans le noir / J’ai perdu l’habitude de toi qui pense à moi / Je t’attends dans le noir.”
Later, the final two lines change slightly and repeat to the end, having rekindled what was lost. They loosely translate: “I resume the habit of you, who think of me… I’m waiting in the dark.”
And we’ll stay here, too, in the peaceful cinematic landings of Junk, possibly a side-effect of M83’s time immediately prior to this album writing film scores. They’ve found a comfortable niche here, in this twilight hour where they’ve been since Before the Dawn Heals Us (2005). As an act birthed from the early 2000 era of space rock, they’ve successfully dodged all the meteors between then and now. Junk might just have eased their craft to a new high score.
M83 is expected to perform a sold-out show at the Fox Oakland April 17 between Coachella weekends.
Article by Joanna Jiang