I'll be honest in saying that sometimes my stingy pocketbook limits me from hearing music that I probably should just go ahead and splurge on. In the case of this album by M83, I figured that I should just wait a little bit and with all the positive press it had gotten, it would eventually be released domestically anyway. Alas, a year later, Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts has arrived on our shores and as a bonus to suckers like me, it even includes a bonus disc of 5 extra tracks and a couple videos. Do good things come to those who wait, or what?
In waiting, I had to hear about everyone and their brother raving about the album, though, and although I did download the album and listen to it on my computer, I promptly deleted it knowing that my tiny CPU speakers simply wouldn't give the release the fidelity it deserved. That, and I'm still a tactile being and wanted to hold the entire package in my hand before laying down judgement. After plowing through the release many times, I don't know if there's a whole lot I can add to the mass ink that has already been spilled on the disc.
While I don't think that it's quite the groundbreaking release that many have given it credit for, there are definitely moments during the 12-track release that I feel like the group has cracked into something unique and downright amazing. While the percolating opening tracks lay the foundation for beauty, it's not until the third track of "Run Into Flowers" that the group strikes pure gold. An astounding mixture of programmed beats, sparkling arpeggios, and soaring vocals, the track is easily one of the more lovely tracks that I've heard in the last year. "In Church" blends more swirling analoge electronics, organs, and a wail of guitars into something that tiptoes between heavenly and cheesy while "America" is one of the more aggressive tracks on the disc, mixing spoken samples with crazy blasts of electronics and stuttering beats.
The group sounds like shoegaze for the laptop set, with their blend of shimmering, hazed-out guitars and electronic melodies that layer so dense at times that you wonder what Kevin Shields has been up to. "Noise" is just as the title states, as the track starts out with gentle piano tickles, guitars, and a simple drum machine, but soon turns into a squall of gorgeous sound. While the album dips into clever, yet slightly cheesy territory on the mechanical "Cyborg," the group ends things with a stunner on the epic "Beauties Can Die."
Unless you've also collected all the import singles from the group, you'll probably want to snag up this version of the release as the bonus disc is quite substantial. In addition to a couple great non-album tracks ("Tsubasa" and "God Of Thunder"), it features a live version of "Gone," a remix of "In Church" (by Cyann And Ben) and the epic 18-minute "Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts." The album is groundbreaking in places and still pretty darn good most of the other time. It might not be the second coming, but it's also a huge leap up from the first self-titled disc by the group. Very nice.