Junk is the seventh studio album by M83, a long running band spearheaded by Anthony Gonzalez. Influence for the album came from the scary yet beautiful idea that everything we know and are will one day be space junk. It also serves as a subtle commentary on the consumption of music and its formats.
The ramifications of this train of though are reflected in this piece, and at times it is convolutes itself with an over-reliance on style regurgitation and provocation of sentimental feelings. This album shines when Gonzalez explores new sounds and feelings. At its best, it spins old formulas through fresh sound palettes. Like icing on a cake: it makes a huge difference in flavour regardless of the cake.
Another large influence on Gonzalez with Junk are TV/movie theme songs in particular the cheesy/trashy or consumable aspect to this type of music. The instrumental ‘Moon Crystal’ is an unashamed doppelgänger to an 80’s sitcom theme of sorts. It even extends itself into a full song format in a predictable way you would expect when hearing a full version of a cut intro to said TV show. ‘Tension’ similarly evokes this kind of music all too well.
To address the ballad tracks on the album, (yes, they are out in force) pacing wise: they are important and well placed. It ruins the “party album” vibe, which could have easily been achieved a la Neon Indians Vega intl. Night School of late 2015 (another artist facing similar noughties synth pop revival complexities in his sound). Upon multiple listens, they may be the most poignant and connecting moments on the album.
‘Solitude’ has an orchestral, melodic power (something Gonzalez does all too very well) that is incredibly entrancing as a slow number. If the other tracks were sitcom themes, this is his Bond soundtrack.
This being said, the pure upbeat pop songs on the album are what carry the concept and vibe, and most certainly overshadow the slower tracks. ‘Do it, Try it’, ‘Laser Gun’, ‘Road Blaster’ and ‘Time Wind’ (featuring a relatively more recognisable collaborator: Beck) are hands down highlights of the LP.
Beautiful chord movements and radical changes in texture and thickness on these more poppy songs create a caricature of their influences, which is refreshingly entertaining. It is ironic and almost poetic that – side by side with the ideas behind the album – the faster and more expendable styled songs stand out and will be the ones getting radio play and attention. This is definitely not a failure in sound progression for Gonzalez, nor is it an awkward alienation of his fans as some claim it to be. The M83 sound is still there, it’s just relying more on emulating its influences in more unique ways than before.