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M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming Turns 10: An Enduring Era of Indie

A decade later, the landmark album continues to wrap us in its blinding twilight

M83 Hurry Up We're Dreaming
Illustration by Steven Fiche
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    I’ve heard M83’s “Outro,” the final track of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, in more TV commercials than I can count. Never mind the widespread usage in TV shows, films, and trailers: I’m talking strictly 30-60 second advertisements, the commercials you’d like to mute, tune out, or fast forward through.

    The usage of the song in media was arguably the most widespread around 2014, but even today, ten years after its release, music supervisors still gravitate towards “Outro” because of its humongous, cathartic climax, a waterfall of synths cascading into a vast cosmos of sound. Upon listening to Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming for the first time ten years ago, I doubt many people heard “Outro” and thought to themselves, “This is the sound of leasing a new Mazda.”

    Nevertheless, the song and album truly endure. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming remains a synth-pop landmark of the 2010s; it’s an album that gave Anthony Gonzalez a massive second wind for his M83 project, and a work that epitomizes the optimism and positivity evident in the Obama era.

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    Bolstered by the unavoidable success of “Midnight City,” Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming also signified a clear moment where “indie” and “mainstream” had become synonymous — only to inevitably be swallowed up by the monogenre corporate music machine and eventually, the streaming era.

    The album’s origins lay in Anthony Gonzalez’s move from Paris to Los Angeles around the turn of the decade. After M83’s fifth studio album Saturdays = Youth made waves in the US’s indie scene, the hype had been steadily building for three years –especially with the heavy amount of press from major indie publications (including this one), French neighbors Phoenix becoming a household name in America, and the slow rise of what was then called “hipster” culture.

    Meanwhile, Gonzalez turned 30 throughout the recording of Hurry Up, and those feelings of forgotten youth began to make their way into the content.

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    Saturdays = Youth’s blend of ’80s new wave, dream pop, and early shoegaze was a major factor in its success, and those qualities were put in even larger focus on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. As Gonzalez began to dabble in scoring films around 2010, the emphasis on making music that was unapologetically cinematic was speaking to him and audiences everywhere. Everything about Hurry Up had to be epic, widescreen, and ambitious — hence its arriving as a double album with a whimsical, almost utopian title.

    Even from its sprawling, enigmatic opening number, “Intro,” Hurry Up promised to be different. This was music that spanned so many different emotions and was drenched in fantasy. As the album unfolds, there’s a heavy amount of juxtaposition in each song between the outlandish, cosmic feel of the “dream world” and the more grounded, minute details of waking life: where songs like “Steve McQueen” and “Reunion” soar, there’s also “Raconte-Moi une Histoire,” in which a young child (prolific producer Justin Meldal-Johnson’s daughter, Zella) narrates her feelings about a very specific frog, found only in the jungle, that has the capacity to make everything look like a “giant cupcake.”

    The level of detail found throughout its 73 minutes is astounding — Anthony Gonzalez and Co. find numerous moments to flourish and create colossal sonic environments to inhabit.

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    For example, take “Claudia Lewis,” one of the more underrated tracks on Hurry Up. Aided by a monstrous bassline, “Claudia Lewis” oscillates only between two chords, but it’s wildly easy to lose track of that detail with the sheer amount of elements working in the song.

    At their core, many of these songs are simple and raw: it’s through Gonzalez and Meldal-Johnson’s massive, neon-soaked lens that they begin to feel otherworldly and significant. This is perhaps best found in Hurry Up’s ballads — songs like “Wait” and “Splendor” are rich, deeply emotive pieces, and in true shoegaze fashion, each clever chord change is a waterfall of sound with the capacity to cut right through to your heart.

    All of this leads to the album’s most iconic single (and the work M83 will be known primarily for for years to come): the synthwave masterpiece that is “Midnight City.”

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    Upon first listen, there’s something about the shrill, leading synth line that feels goofy. But ten years later, its odd, animalistic shout is synonymous with the indie pop of the era: bright, boisterous, and undeniably influenced by the ’80s (a time that a certain generation is often trying to return to, despite not having lived through it in the first place). What’s more, is that Gonzalez created the opening line by distorting his own voice, creating a sound that simply could not be replicated by anyone else.

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