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The Haul: M83's Saturdays = Youth and Deerhunter's Microcastle

Receipt of a trip the Harvard Square Newbury Comics

The wife and I had agreed not to buy presents for each other for Valentine’s Day, but since she never buys records on her own (apparently someone in this household buys enough for two people), I figured I’d pick up one of her recent favorites (and one of mine) now that the vinyl had been released. All of her albums are filed alongside mine, meaning that Death Cab for Cutie, Iron & Wine, Jenny Lewis, and their ilk have not been segregated in a girl-friendly indie section, which makes sense since I’m in charge of finding new bands that she might enjoy and putting them on her iPod. In a way, I only have myself to blame for most artists she enjoys—except for Regina Spektor, I had nothing to do with my wife’s fondness for her most recent album—but sadly the “You’d really love the new Isis album!” doesn’t seem to work with her. Thankfully there’s enough cross-over in tastes with the non-noise tendencies of my record collection that she’ll listen to most of my new purchases.

21. M83 – Saturdays = Youth 2LP – Mute, 2008 – $20

When I first heard this album, I thought that the modernized Tears of Fears pop of “Kim & Jessie” and the electronic pulse and sheen of “Couleurs” should be a single in lieu of the unnecessary album tracks. I’m going to pull back from that statement, to a degree. Even given the strength of Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, I view M83 as a singles band, since the album cuts often indulge Gonzalez’s more irritating tendencies like ultra-falsetto cooing, melodramatic voiceovers, and new age-aping schlock. Yet Gonzalez approaches each record as an album (eye roll for the critic cliché), with Saturdays = Youth his clearest concept album yet. That Tears for Fears reference earlier connects specifically to the use of “Head Over Heels” in Donnie Darko and that movie’s ’80s nostalgia as a whole. While Donnie Darko is too plot-oriented to be confused with a classic John Hughes movie, Kelly’s soundtrack included all of the songs he wished were in those movies. “Wouldn’t it be great if Echo & the Bunnymen made it into one of those films?” It’s not pure nostalgia—Kelly could never pull that off, since he’d end up meddling too much (see, or preferably don’t see, the overwrought Southland Tales)—but it’s nostalgia revived, reimagined.

M83's Saturdays = Youth LP

A quick look at the cover of Saturdays = Youth underscores how Gonzalez and Kelly are kindred spirits. That Molly Ringwald lookalike makes Gonzalez’s back-sleeve shout-out to the music, movies, and friends of his teenage years completely irrelevant. Could anyone mistake his intentions? Donnie Darko is the John Hughes film Richard Kelly envisioned, Saturdays = Youth is the soundtrack to the John Hughes film Anthony Gonzalez envisioned. The minimal piano arrangement of “You, Appearing,” the club focus of “Couleurs,” and the electronic sighs of “Midnight Souls Still Remain” wouldn’t make an actual John Hughes film, much like Richard Kelly’s time-travel theories, but those elements make their respective tributes interesting. If the rest of the album consisted of singles as strong as “Kim & Jessie” and “We Own the Sky” (“Up!” and “Skin of the Night” pale in comparison), it would have easily been Gonzalez’s finest, but the lesser songs rely too much on nostalgia. It makes sense as an album, but it doesn’t hold up as an album.

A key difference between Anthony Gonzalez and Richard Kelly, however, is that the former knows what makes his work compelling, and the latter, judging from the Donnie Darko director’s cut (“Being open for interpretation? No thanks, let me explain everything”) / director’s commentary (in which Kevin Smith understood the strengths of the film better than its director), Southland Tales, and the script for Domino, seemed to make an interesting film thanks in large part to his production limitations. Given that M83’s singles have gotten better as they’ve gotten bigger, I imagine the opposite is true with regard to Anthony Gonzalez’s production limitations.

Deerhunter's Microcastle

22. Deerhunter– Microcastle / Weird Era Continued LP+CD – Kranky, 2008 – $15

Dear Kranky Records,

I waited quite a while for the LP edition of Deerhunter’s excellent Microcastle to reach stores. Even after it was officially released, it took months before I found a copy at Newbury Comics, despite checking every time I ventured in a store. When I finally found a copy, I gladly snapped it up, having already read on your site that the vinyl would include a CD of Weird Era Continued. Strange, considering that Cryptograms included the Fluorescent Grey EP on vinyl, but I’ll live with it. Imagine my surprise when I find a double LP edition of the record at Sonic Boom in Seattle just a month after I buy the single LP edition. I could understand pressing the 2LP edition first, making it a limited collector’s edition, and then switching to the single LP edition, but the order of these pressings just baffles me. I look forward to a triple gatefold pressing of Stars of the Lid’s And Their Refinement of the Decline in the next year, or perhaps a quintuple LP set including their recent tour CD on two more slabs of wax.

Best, Sebastian.

P.S. That new Tim Hecker album is great. Please let me know if you’re planning anything special for the second pressing of that album.