With the release of Saturdays = Youth, Anthony Gonzalez apparently wants us to take the numerical designation in the name of his band literally. It doesn't take long at all to find the shiny, near-glistening influence of the 80s at work here, and the already-noted John Hughes film soundtracks are a perfect starting point. After a couple gorgeous, synth-heavy releases in Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts and Before The Dawn Heals Us, it's certainly not an entirely unsurprising next step, but the sheer level of sheen is still a bit surprising.
Production-wise, it's as stunning as one would expect, with billowy clouds of synths and lots of tom-heavy drum patterns that thud away dramatically under soaring guitars and breathy vocals. "You, Appearing" opens things up with repeating piano phrases and some falsetto vocals over backwards guitar notes, and "Kim & Jessie" take it into full-on new wave pop mode as vocals of indestructible youth add just the right amount of soft defiance. On "Skin Of The Night" and "Up!," Morgan Kibby takes on vocal duties, and the result is a mixed-bag, with the former taking on some of the lush, dreamy qualities of the Cocteau Twins while the latter falls into an inescapable syrup of both lyrical and musical corny-ness that is nearly un-listenable.
My biggest problems with the release are when they fall into those pockets of saccharine nostalgia simply for nostalgia's sake. If you go back to the touchpoints of the era in terms of music, there's certainly plenty of awful lyrics, and while I can often overlook lyrics if the music itself is strong, Saturdays = Youth sometimes lapses into a sort of emo shoegazer feel that's simply a bit too sickly-sweet for me. In other places (as on "Couleurs" and even the stunning ambient closer of "Midnight Souls Still Remain"), Gonzalez manages to churn out his stately sounds without consigning himself to retro-spooning. Even the dense "Dark Moves Of Love" mixes in subtle laser-blast sound effects, huge guitars, layers of synths, and thick reverb-heavy drums into something that definitely sounds like something of the 80s era, but with a new, more forward-leaning burst. Definitely retro, it's a different direction from Gonzalez and M83, but if you're looking to remember a time when John Cusack was actually in good movies, this will do the trick.