★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
The first few beats of “Midnight City” are undeniable. You roll down the windows and turn up the volume, driving through your city right before the night comes alive. You feel alive, and this is the perfect soundtrack.
“DSVII” doesn’t feel like that.
Actually, it doesn’t feel like anything.
“DSVII” is M83’s eighth studio album. Yes, you read that right, eighth. Known popularly for Grammy-nominated “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” it seemed like M83 had disappeared from music. They didn’t, we just thought it did.
I spent 20 minutes waiting for lyrics before I realized this was an ambient album. Maybe that’s my fault. After all, that’s really all M83’s been releasing the last few years.
But I still had hope in the back of my mind that maybe, just maybe, I would get a single track that recalled the old M83. That moment never happened.
I was wishing for another indie-boy basement party album. I thought indie lovers all over would be rejoice when they finally got something else that makes them feel the way “Wait” does.
All we got was something to add to our study playlist.
To be fair, “DSVII” is great for studying. It’s got synth and choirs and electronic melodies. “Goodbye Captain Lee” sounds like a voyage and will motivate you to get through your math homework.
“Meet The Friends” is a love song without the lyrics. I can think of an ex-boyfriend who would’ve texted me the link with “this made me think of you,” and I would spend weeks trying to figure out if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
I’ve been trying to figure out if this album is a good thing or a bad thing. If I hadn’t known about it, I would have been blissfully content listening to my old indie music forever. But I did, and now I just feel bummed out. Not because there were songs that broke my heart and tore at my soul, but because I feel like I wasted an hour.
There were times when I wondered if “DSVII” was supposed to be a gospel album. There’s a harpsichord and a choir. I got distinct flashbacks of trying to learn hymns with a CD backing I got from a Sunday school teacher. A gospel album, I could forgive. But a regular ambient album that just happens to accidentally sound like one? No way.
Too often, I found myself checking the remaining time left on the album. Actively listening to this felt like a chore.
Listening to music should never feel like something you have to do. It should make you feel something. Happiness, longing, pain. At least one song on an album should hit you so deep in your gut that you lose your breath. Ambient music can do this; just listen to Brian Eno. And what did “DSVII” make me feel? Annoyed.
It’s okay for an artist to do new things. And they should. But they should also know what works for them and what doesn’t. My favorite parts of the album were moments when I was reminded of “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.” It wasn’t because I was longing for the past. It’s because it didn’t bore me.