French electronic music group M83’s album Fantasy is one of the best ’80s movie soundtracks, and it doesn’t even come with a movie.
Lead vocalist Anthony Gonzalez, who is the only constant member of the band, has the uncanny ability to evoke childhood nostalgia among listeners. He accomplishes this often wordlessly in the group’s ninth studio album, Fantasy, as the synths popular in the music of his ’80s childhood create an entire album that feels ripped out of a movie like Labyrinth or the original Dune.
The music video for the lead single “Oceans Niagara,” released on Jan. 10, has the same feel as those movies. In the video, three teenagers run through beautiful, constantly shifting backgrounds while the sinister-looking man with many eyes on the Fantasy album cover watches over them. It’s hokey and hard to tell what exactly is happening, but the charm comes through even in the five minute run time. It feels like the start of a cheesy adventure movie that was too strange to be released but too creative to be forgotten. That same weird feeling permeates the entire album.
Gonzalez meticulously constructs each song to take the listener on a journey, especially with “Water Deep,” “Amnesia,” and “Kool Nuit.” They have their explosive highs and contemplative lows placed perfectly in each song. “Amnesia” specifically is such a soaring roller coaster that it stands out as this masterpiece dripping with nostalgia. These songs overwhelm the listener and force a genuine emotional engagement with the album. It might be impossible to listen to this song and feel nothing.
The feeling of the album being a soundtrack to a non-existent adventure movie only really falters when the album makes major departures in its sound. Tracks like “Radar, Far, Gone” and the title track “Fantasy” change up the album to have a more acoustic sound and a funkier sound respectively, which is a nice change of pace for an album over an hour long. But they don’t really fit with the synth heavy tracks that surround them.
With only one music video to gauge the complete vision of Fantasy, it’s difficult to tell why such a sonic departure was necessary. If one outlier track was dropped it would improve the pacing a bit and result in a more musically consistent album. As it stands Fantasy feels just a bit too long for its own good, so it feels like a misstep of Gonzalez to have these out of place tracks.
The other reason this album feels so long is the length of the individual tracks. As a whole, Fantasy is barely shorter than M83’s 2011 double-album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Almost half of the tracks on Fantasy are over five minutes.
While Fantasy at times feels long, its epic journey is still unlike anything in modern music. It takes its influences and completely upstages them. The nostalgic trip Gonzalez creates on this album is so expertly crafted that those who weren’t alive in his childhood can feel what was so fantastic about that era. Like the cult classic movies that inspired it, Fantasy is a work of art that deserves attention.