Live: M83 Sparkle At Central Park

Central Park Summerstage
Wednesday, August 8

Better than: Being forced to watch that Victoria's Secret commercial over and over again.

M83 are at a crossroads. Last fall's daringly expansive Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, coupled with its equally cinematic long-form video components, unabashed commercial synchs and a forthcoming Disney-scoring gig, have placed the brainchild of Anthony Gonzalez squarely on the springboard.

The reality of that intersection was striking last night at Central Park, where they played an extended, almost too-beautiful electro set that couldn't quite peg what it wanted to be: a romantic indie dream-pop secret? That band from all those Red Bull ads? Or, like, Katy Perry-big? The result: an evening chock-full of contradictions—none unpleasant to experience, but all blisteringly symptomatic of the choices Gonzalez and his band either are about to make or are in the midst of making.

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100 & Single: fun., Gotye, M83, EDM, And The Beginning Of The Hot 100's Spotify Years

The top three songs on Spotify, March 20, 2012. "Young" is at No. 1 on the Hot 100; "Know" is at No. 5; and "Came" is at No. 4.
How do you know when you're at the dawn of a new pop era?

It's not like someone sends a memo. Sure, occasionally there's a well-timed cultural event that offers a hint—the disastrous Altamont festival in December 1969, which signaled that the flower-power dream was over, or Comiskey Park's Disco Demolition Night in July 1979, which warned that dance music's days were numbered, at least with middle-American dudes. But even bright temporal lines like these only seem significant in retrospect, and they don't actually change the sound of young America overnight.

The same goes for the Billboard charts, the Dow Jones Industrial Average of pop. Occasionally you get a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 that feels like a revolution instantly. Or there's a blockbuster album that feels like a generational torch passing.

This week, the song sitting on top the Hot 100 doesn't necessarily sound like a revolution. But from its title on down, "We Are Young," the soaring, Janelle Monáe-assisted rock anthem by emo-pomp band fun, wants to be generational. Two weeks ago, fun. rampaged their way to the summit thanks to a pileup of digital sales. For each of the last two weeks, "We Are Young" has topped the very healthy sum of 300,000 downloads; it's the only song to roll that many weekly downloads in 2012, let alone do it twice.

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Cash In Now, Honey: The 11 Best Uses Of Music In Commercials This Year

We are adidas' friends. You'll never be shoeless again.
Right now in a record store (probably in Seattle or maybe in Austin), two people are flipping through used vinyl and talking about music. Inevitably, one of them will turn to the other, pick up a record and accuse that musician or band of having "sold out" at one point.

Yes, even in the age of rampant downloading, there are still begrudged idealists who resent an artist making a paycheck, as if banking off a recording and inadvertently assisting in the cycle of commerce is almost as bad as commissioning for a remix. This is 2011; the very notion of selling out is preposterous. Unless you're Steve Albini or Ian MacKaye, I'm pretty sure you're a sell-out too, Mr. Cubicle.

In the list below, I've picked my favorite 2011 song usages in a commercial and the format is like this
Product: What is the musician or band hawking to the masses?
Song: Who is that band and what is that song?
Will It Sell The Product? How successful is that song in winning over the skeptical consumer?
"Sellout" Scale: Notice the quotes.

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No Context: M83 at the Bowery Ballroom

Categories: M83

This lovely rendering of last night's show was done by Matt of the Syndicate Blog

Bowery Ballroom
Wednesday, June 4

Fussy French dude Anthony Gonzalez’s M83 set up onstage pretty much like you’d expect: first somebody comes and drags one of those acoustic glass cages out around the drum set and you just know when the drummer emerges he’s going to have to wear headphones in order to hear what’s what; then the keyboard tree goes up stage left, ostentatiously studded with all sorts of incredibly expensive looking boxes surrounded by other custom high-tech boxes hand-forged or whatever for the purposes of protecting the original probably-custom boxes inside; the guitar amp, when it arrives stage right, is the incongruous size of a large suitcase. Gonzalez gets his own entrance/applause, then come the rest of the band. All four members have microphones, but the vox on the first song trickle out via sample, a troubling sign.

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M83 Tonight at Bowery Ballroom

Categories: M83

Yeah, he played Williamsburg last night too

M83's newish Saturdays=Youth (first single: "Graveyard Girl") reminds me of the Magnetic Fields' newish Distortion (first single: "California Girls")—and not just because both bands are named after natural phenomena. Both employ the same gauzy, JAMC/Cocteau Twins production swirl to swaddle songs about being young and drunk; both have restless, prodigy-type auteurs as band leaders. But Stephin Merritt almost certainly would not have dedicated an album to "all the friends, music, movies, joints, and crazy teachers that made my teenage years so great," as M83's Anthony Gonzalez just did. Gonzalez's relative optimism comes through clearly all over Saturdays=Youth, which just follows one dreamy synth with another: "Kids outside worlds," he sings. "They are crazy about romance and illusion." With Berg Sans Nipple. — ZACH BARON.

8 p.m., sold out. Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey, 212-533-2111,

UPDATE, 6/05
Zach Baron went to the show and wrote about it