In 2008, I graduated from college.
It was a weird time. I had just come out of the closet – to friends, not family – and was hungry to eat the world, to deposit my wit and charm and generally good looks to Hollywood by way of acting.
A decade past, a lot has changed. My life is, more or less, defined by queerness and I am very distant from Hollywood although still living with in it. Things have been reassessed, retweaked, bettered in many ways.
The strange thing about time passing as we age – specifically in your thirties – is that there is a strange wandering through your past, over a decade and beyond, to another life. What happened there? I’ve been doing that a lot lately for no other reason than remembering to remember. I’ve been wanting to make my friendships more meaningful and impactful, generally stuffed with love. With that has comes an assessment of who has gotten forgotten or has been neglected or who really made my life my life then.
Some of this is tied to art – Morris Louis at the Hirshhorn, Brokeback Mountain at the Laemmle, Ladytron at the 9:30 Club – while others were tied to more intimate expressions, smaller moments of you and a television (Planet Earth) and a computer (“I’m Old Greg!“) or an iPod (Still Going’s “Still Going Theme“). Those were simpler times, in a way.
A lot of those works come back to me while some of them are completely gone from my mind, lost in some dark spot that is fading away into a foggy distance. Then there’s works like M83’s Saturdays = Youth that feel so present in their distance, an anomaly in this lurking back through time. The album was released in April of 2008 and caught me as I was exiting college. I had been an M83 fan since high school, a slave to Pitchfork since the eleventh grade, scouring Borders’ electronic section for works from Junior Boys and Prefuse 73 and Goldfrapp. M83, too.
The album was different. It was nostalgic, in a very direct way. It was the bridge from the more abstract M83 to the more commercial M83, to the guy who makes shitty retro fare for literal teenagers instead of being a twentysomething angsty person mulling through lost sounds. Songs like “Couleurs” grabbed me, hooking into the part of my listening mind that was a cloud of sound. Then it shifted to more pop melodies, “Graveyard Girl” and “Kim & Jessie” offering a strange yet radio friendly introduction to the eventual beginning-of-the-end that was 2011’s “Midnight City” and the ensuing album that was a recycling of thought, stuck in the tarpit of remembering.
It all makes sense why something like Saturdays = Youth was so great. It was Anthony Gonzalez, Mr. M83, flexing his post-duo muscles after breaking up with collaborator Nicolas Fromageau, who went on to work as Team Ghost (who had one good EP and that was it). It was co-produced with Ewan Pearson, an artist who worked with artists I was obsessed with from The Rapture to The Chemical Brothers to Gwen Stefani. He also put out the fantastic mix Piece Work in 2007 and We Are Proud Of Our Choices in 2010. In some ways, Pearson was the lynchpin that made this M83 so memorable to me since he was interwoven through so many groups that I liked but he also had a commercial enough sound: that was probably a major thrust in this M83 of then to become the M83 of today.
And that M83 of today sucks. 2008 me did not see that coming but 2008 me didn’t also see myself living a life outwardly gay or not working in the movie industry. 2008 me was dumb. 2008 me is a great distance away.
Today, Saturdays = Youth has gone by almost agelessly. If it were released in 2018, it would still be a hit. It would arguably be a bigger hit! Not a perfect album, no, but it does come very close. It sticks to you in a strange way. That was true then and that was true now.