My 50 Favorite Albums of 2008: #01

Number 01

So here the long and winding journey of my 50 favorite albums of the year comes to an end, with M83’s spectacular Saturdays = Youth. There was really no question as to what struck the most powerful chord with me as I was running through all of the terrific albums I heard in 2008 a little over a month ago. From the moment I purchased this record (which was back in April at Tracks record store in Bloomington, just before an Okkervil River concert), and really even before  I played it, I knew it had to be something special. What I didn’t picture was it becoming what it so assuredly is now, some nine months after its release: an instant classic. I have always been an admirer of the talent of Anthony Gonzalez and his bandmates on past M83 records, but with Saturdays they have entered masterful territory, creating an album that encourages its listener to remember all of the endearing, awkward, shy, coming-of-age moments we experienced in our teenage years. They have managed to construct some of the most spacious and ambitiously large ambient records in previous years, which can be seen as acquired-taste projects that only some can come to love, but here they have approached the material with as much simplicity as possible, and even those who couldn’t find anything to get into from M83 in the past, will love some of the singles here. There was no better one-two opening on any record this year than the glorious “You, Appearing” and “Kim & Jessie”; and what’s most impressive about the album is that the rest of it after these two songs completely lives up to the profound statement set by them.

There has been a stab or two here and there on previous records that hint at Gonzalez’s focus on youth, like the breakthrough single “Teen Angst” from 2005’s Before the Dawn Heals Us, and it was obviously only a matter of time before he would incorporate the significance of his teenage years into an entire collection of songs. There is a lot more writing on this album, lyrically speaking, than on any of his previous efforts; and for the first time we can really see how brilliant of an emotional-evoking and personal songwriter Gonzalez is. Saturdays = Youth is a perfect record on any level you choose to analyze it, and if experienced with headphones on extra volume, it will become an inseparable keepsake to your collection. It is first and foremost a love letter to his own time of adolescence in the 80’s, so anyone who grew up in the specific time period could instantly relate. But the wide theme of the album – which is the universal feeling of simply being a teenager – is one anyone can relate to; so the record is bound to sink into your skin, no matter who you are..and if somehow you can’t let it affect you, then I am convinced you have no soul, and I feel sorry for you. Morgan Kibby’s voice dominates the beautiful, “Up!”, and even the songs without words on the record, like “Couleurs”, bleed with the ingenuity of youthful times. Like all of M83’s records, this is a fully realized experience that you never feel cheated on, btu what makes this such an important movie forward for the band is the change in focus, which finds Gonzalez getting extremely personal. There was never any kind of question as to what both the single of the year (“Kim & Jessie”) or album of the year would be. This is just one of my favorite albums, period.

1.You, Appearing
2.Kim & Jessie
3.Skin of the Night
4.Graveyard Girl
5.Couleurs
6.Up!
7.We Own the Sky
8.Highway of Endless Dreams
9.Too Late
10.Dark Moves of Love
11.Midnight Souls Still Remain

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2 Responses to “My 50 Favorite Albums of 2008: #01”

  1. Corey Says:

    After listening to it first way back during one of our spring trips, not really liking it at the time, I am in full agreement that this is without a doubt the best album of the year, and quite possibly one of the best of the decade.

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