Tag Archives: Midnight City

Dreaming in Central Park – M83 at Summerstage 8/8/2012

10 Aug

Let there be M83

I’ve come to a conclusion. Bands who start off their concerts with a fly monster gradually lifting his arms towards the sky while green laser beams shoot out of them towards the crowd will probably perform a good show. M83’s weeknight concert at Central Park Summerstage proved this abstruse statistic correct. The French shoegaze/synthpop foursome led by vocalist, conductor, art director, pianist, etc. Anthony Gonzalez combined forces with a full on-stage orchestra to blast ambient riffs to an excited crowd.

Okocim and I expected the crowd to be more Hipstery. I’m not entirely sure what we meant by that, but we both know collectively what we are talking about. Skinny, cigarette-puffing, open button-downs or short skin-revealing black t’s, slicked back hair, $300 ensemble, crossing their arms and nodding at the music while sipping a craft beer or, better yet, wine from the City Winery cart. Instead, the concert was attended by an eclectic group of mostly 20-somethings dancing and sweating in the inevitable cloud of weed and beer. M83 played to the crowd exceptionally well, putting together a set list that unctuated skillfully and culminated into percussion-heavy fast-paced electronic synth tracks that sparked sweaty dancing. It was certainly an intimate gathering as my sweat-soaked shirt and aching knee would suggest.

The light show (you can see a little taste above) was exceptionally well-done. It was coordinated perfectly with the music, and it was not excessive. It accentuated the tracks and provided listeners with brilliant visual stimuli.

During the concert, as drug-induced swaying mixed with hums and yells, I started thinking about the type of music that M83 creates. It is a type of electronic that is original to them. “Midnight City,” for example – their most popular song and the one that received the most cheers during the show – is pop, well synthpop. But their other material is dreamy, smooth, and almost drawn-out (giving them the shoegaze title – but one that is light on guitars). Some may call the music Indietronica, an obscure combo genre that is not used so often. I think I am going to settle on calling them M83. They are unique. A majority of their music comes from the 80’s new wave movement, but they have transformed it into something original. And it’s exciting to hear a unique band.

They are also refreshingly grateful. There perfusive thanks to the crowd was authentic. You could really tell they love playing music and performing it. I’d say my favorite song of the night was “Outro” into “Colours” in the encore. “Outro” features Gonzalez’s vocals above a gradually rising song that eventually blows up. This is followed by “Colours,” a track off of Saturdays=Youth that is equatable to an electro-dance piece. It was a great decision to close the night.

Lower Your Eyelids at Central Park Summerstage

8 Aug

You have heard of M83 (named after the galaxy Messier 83). If you don’t think you have, you have. Trust me. If you listened to music last year, it was difficult to avoid “Midnight City,” the huge hit off of M83’s 2011 album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. The album was the biggest success for the French electronic band, although they have released six albums to date. Six albums and a lot of good music.

See? I told you. With more than 14 million Facebook views, it is easy to confirm that the song was/is quite popular. In a few hours I am going to the M83 show at Central Park Summerstage, and I’m not quite sure what to expect. M83 plays an infectious brand of shoegaze electronic music that combines crescendoing, heavenly melodies with Anthony Gonzalez’s smooth vocals. Because of the success of  “Midnight City” and the whole synthpop infused double album, I’m not sure what the crowd is going to look like. My guess is an overwhelmingly young crowd with a mix of true M83 devotees and recent fans. Oh, and there will certainly be costumes by the band and flashing lights. A lot of flashing lights.

I was introduced to M83 by Okocim. He will be joining me for the concert tonight. He showed me the band in college and I immediately became hooked by one song in particular, the lengthy last track of M83’s 2005 album Before the Dawn Heals Us. The song that intrigued me was “Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun.” It still remains my favorite song from the band. I know that I will probably not hear the track tonight, but I can still show it to you folks.

The piece struck a chord with me mainly because of its repetitive creativity. I love how Gonzalez lays out the piece, combining rising elements until it forms a wave of sound that hits hard. It is what I would consider an epic piece (and perfect for a movie). You can just imagine something glorious happening as this plays. I know that M83 with most likely open the show with “Intro,” the first track off of their new album, but a taste of this piece would work even better (in my opinion of course). Now enjoy the song, and I will have a review up of the concert soon.

Top 10 Songs of 2011: #5: “Midnight City” by M83

27 Dec

Most of the time it takes a few albums before a band reaches its true pinnacle. Actually, most bands don’t reach this apex at all. But when bands do rise to a higher level, it is always so much fun to reap the benefits of this maturation. In M83’s case, the zenith was reached with the 2011 release of the double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, and specifically with the ethereal track “Midnight City.”

Anthony Gonzalez

M83 was Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau. Since 2004, though, it has been the baby of Gonzalez and whomever else he calls on to join him in creating music. Most consistently this has been percussionist Loïc Maurin, vocalist Morgan Kibby, and his brother Yann. For Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Gonzalez called on Beck and Nine Inch Nails’ bassist Justin Meldal-Johnson, Zola Jesus, and even James King of Fitz and the Tantrums (remember him from yesterday’s post)?

Gonzalez took care of: vocals, art direction, backing vocals, clapping, conductor, design, electric guitar, keyboards, orchestral arrangements, piano, producer, programming, snaps, synthesizer.

I’d say he has a say in what is released. Meldal-Johnson also played a crucial role in the development of the album’s spacey and skillful feel. This is his line:

Acoustic guitar, bass guitar, clapping, electric guitar, engineer, keyboards, mandolin, percussion, producer, programming, snaps

What I am attempting to achieve in listing the credits is an understanding that Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was put together by some very talented musicians and when a conglomerate of talented musicians produce successful work it sounds like this:

Interestingly, last year I featured “Flash Delirium” by MGMT at around the same spot on the 2010 countdown. “Midnight City” links up to MGMT’s hit slightly. They both toy around with neo-psychedelia, creative musical constructions, and heavy synthesizer sounds. But “Midnight City” takes on a dreamy electronica feel that “Flash Delirium” does not have. Music critics have labeled M83 as a shoegaze band, but, with “Midnight City” especially, I feel that Gonzalez has lifted the band beyond the conventions of that genre – immature wall-of-sound alt/rock effects and distortion – and into a realm of ambient fluidity that flows like warm water. The song is inviting, intriguing and insightful.

The first 40 seconds of the song deserve a breakdown. The very beginning of the song features a lone synth over a strung-out note. The synth in trademark M83 fashion (i.e. “Lower Your Eyelids to Die with the Sun” off of 2005’s Before the Dawn Heals Us”) tells a story. It speaks to the listener like a passionate lyric. A low bass is added into the mixture and supports this delicate combination until the song explodes with some more heavy synth, electric drums, and a female vocalists high hum. The resulting combination is flat-out magical. There is no other way to describe it. This combination will persist in the song, both haunting and inviting.

The verses feature a vocal interplay over some rhythm. The lyric is a little difficult to understand, but, in songs like this, the most important part is the melody and, well, you kind of create your own story. The video portrays their vision – an X-Men like jailbreak – but feel free to imagine what you’d like. I would like to point out one piece of poetry I find impressive:

Waiting for a roar
Looking at the mutating skyline
The city is my church
It wraps me in the sparkling twilight

Yeah, I kind of got that sense too when listening to the song. Yes, this is a little heavy-handed and grandiloquent, but, I still like the poetry.

I’m sure by now you are wondering where James King fits into all of this. He is a saxophonist, right. Well do you hear that incredible sax solo at the end of the song that plays over the repetition of the main theme. I think this was a highly intelligent touch in this song. King plays an energetic solo and it elevates the music to a new level until the fade.

M83 – Midnight City

11 Sep

Early Thursday afternoon, a group of friends and I took a walk around town to take a look at the flooding in our area (Binghamton, New York). We weren’t the only ones taking pictures of and observing the homes by the Susquehanna River which were now mostly underwater. A few people resisted evacuation and rode on, using make shift bridges to move valuables away. The river was to swell at 2pm, and I was surprised when I saw an older lady crawling out of the 1st floor window of one of the houses. The water had risen right up to that window, and she claimed with a tired voice that her house only had an inch of water in it. We couldn’t possibly help her in any way other than conversation, and even that had to end as the police along with the national guard were evacuating the street. Earlier I witnessed probably the most memorable sight of that entire ordeal. A lone news reporter snuck onto a closed off bridge with his camera and marched towards the flooding despite the yells from guards.

As an out of town college student, I took in all of this in with a sort of disconnect, no different than as if I was watching it on the news. I was lucky enough that my house was on a hill and I got two days off from school. I know some people who were evacuated from the flooded downtown, and for them it was really just an inconvenient excuse to party more. Flooded underground bars resumed activity in less than 24 hours and they now just had a new theme. Sure there are dozens of students volunteering at the events center on campus, but when did a little water ever stop the party? The volunteering is  just to make it more guilt-free!

I had an idea to write about a rain-themed song today, but then I thought that it would be slightly inappropriate. Today I have for you what can only be described as chillwave fused with 80’s dance music. M83, named after the galaxy, is a French band which describes themselves as electronic/ dream pop, is releasing their newest album in October, and the single which they released has blown away everyone who has had the pleasure of hearing it.

Midnight City opens with bizarre instrumentation and a quick yet dreamy build. That fantastic loop which plays throughout the entire song, I’ve come to the conclusion is simply someone saying “Dat do ‘n Dat” with heavy amounts of audio effects. The bass line and the drums are something which sound like they were ripped straight out of the 80’s. The lyrics are soft and slow during the quick verses. Each progressive one builds on the lyrics with awesome harmonies. It ironically makes me think of rainy city nights.

The song itself is slightly repetitive, but it most definitely in the best way as the band seems to have uncovered some sort of fail proof song structure and sounds. This is the perfect song to listen to on the way home from some crazy party fun. The sax solo at the end is beyond appropriate. Like a perfect finish to the night, it ends the song with a wave of reflection, something incredibly hard to talk through, mainly because it is so blissfully sweet.

This song is available as a free download and is the single off their upcoming album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, being released October 18th. Based on Midnight City, its gearing up to be amazing. I certainly can’t wait. Hopefully it doesn’t rain for forty days. We’d need a longer sax solo in that case.


P.S. Worst part by far is having to boil my water to wash dishes or brush my teeth. I’d rather have my house float away.

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