Like fellow Frenchmen Air and Daft Punk, M83's Anthony Gonzalez has the knack for making sounds others might think of as outdated, or even tacky, into music that feels stylish and fresh. Saturdays=Youth lives up to its evocative title, but the youth it captures is filtered through nostalgia for the unrepentantly fake sounds of the '80s, transforming them into delicate fantasy pop. Synths whoosh like wind tunnels and ping like lasers, guitars are whipped into ethereal froth, the drums are robotic and proud of it, and the production reproduces the cleaner-than-clean, almost brittle style of the era almost too perfectly. The largely instrumental "Couleurs" races through the night on synth and drum swells that haven't been heard since Miami Vice's heyday, while "Skin of the Night" sounds like it borrows Phil Collins' kit from No Jacket Required. Though Saturdays=Youth often plays like a love letter to artists ranging from the Cocteau Twins to Mr. Mister, it never seems like an exercise designed to just re-create those sounds. The cinematic feel of Before the Dawn Heals Us is stronger than ever here, from the 11-minute finale "Midnight Souls Still Remain," which unfolds like closing credits, to the Breakfast Club-meets-fashion shoot album cover, which makes Saturdays=Youth appear to be the soundtrack to the most glamorous film John Hughes never made. This hyper-stylized teen romance and angst drive the album, taking it to the highest highs and the lowest lows. "We Own the Sky" is jubilant, stretching out into a summery haze of airy vocals and synths; "Too Late" contemplates the end in melodramatic, ultra-romantic fashion, ending with a whispered "you, always." Saturdays=Youth also features some of M83's purest pop yet, which provide many of the album's standouts. "Kim & Jessie" heart-racing young love is one of Gonzalez's finest sonic confections, along with "Graveyard Girl" and the Kate Bush-worshiping "Up!," a sci-fi fairy tale that boasts some fittingly unearthly singing by guest vocalist Morgan Kibby. As super-stylized as its sounds and emotions are, Saturdays=Youth always seems genuine, even when it feels like its songs are made from the memories of other songs. For all of its nostalgic haze, it's some of M83's most focused music.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares