WVAU Top Music of 2011: #5

Maeve McDermott, Peter Gill

#5 Album: M83 – Hurry Up, We‰’re Dreaming

M83 takes its name from Messier 83, a galaxy 15 million light years away, and that‰’s precisely where Hurry Up, We‰’re Dreaming inhabits. From its dreamlike interludes to its expansive synth melodies to Anthony Gonzales‰’ career-making vocal performance, everything about Hurry Up suggests an existence somewhere far from Earth.

What launches Hurry Up into the stratosphere is the album’s flawless first act, the one-two punch of the sweeping, Zola Jesus-bolstered “Intro‰” and the breathlessly exuberant “Midnight City,‰” the latter featuring a horn solo that (apologies, “Beth/Rest‰Û/“Bizness”/Kaputt) puts the year’s other saxophone-soaked records to shame. And the album stays in orbit far past the first few tracks, featuring the strongest music we’ve heard from Gonzales yet. Hurry Up is a triumph, a double album absent of any bloated tracks or pretense, a record that‰’s effortlessly epic.

Followers of indie rock have grown accustomed to “cinematic‰” albums that swing for the rafters, and even witnessed Arcade Fire win a Grammy for one such album early in 2011, and next year Bon Iver is the key “indie‰” artist to be recognized by the awards. Interestingly enough, the ways his latest album and Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming have been written about are almost identical, aside from the dueling saxophones; their recent albums are big advances sonically for both artists, both featuring “virtuosic vocal performances” and rich instrumentals, with songs that unfold in suitelike fashion, building from calmness to soaring, crashing heights in a moment’s time.

But more importantly, both dealt in some way with redefining the geographical boundaries with which we’re familiar. Bon Iver released a beautifully crafted album, filled with stunningly pretty songs with names like “Michicant‰” and “Holocene‰” and other pseudo-cities, and his album has been hailed by many as the best of the year. But isn‰’t it more admirable, instead of crafting an album that works within the world we know, to break those bounds and build new cities to sing about? M83 rises above the bevy of other 2011 releases by inhabiting an entirely different universe, one of his own making.

Intro (ft Zola Jesus)

by M83

By Maeve McDermott

#5 Song: James Blake – “The Wilhelm Scream”

I admit I was hesitant in approaching James Blake’s eponymous full-length debut, thanks to the countless anonymous bloggers raving about “the only album that matters in music right now”. However, it is difficult to ignore the brilliance of “The Wilhelm Scream”.

The entire song is built around one brief lyrical and melodic figure that repeats itself for over four minutes, severely limiting what Blake can achieve creatively within such strict confines. However, he rises to the occasion with skillful production, effortlessly building the music from a subdued atmospheric murmur peppered with percussive clicks to a deep well of dense synths and throbbing beats that resembles Blake’s “falling, falling, falling, falling”.

So this is what all those stormtroopers in Star Wars were thinking as they got lasered by rebels.

By Peter Gill