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M83's 2003 album, Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts was straight-up Blade Runner material, circa Los Angeles 2019. Dark and extravagant, it demanded proper subservience, too intense for a pedestrian spin on the stereo. While it garnered the group overseas adoration akin to that enjoyed by other French knob-twiddlers, Air the band is not. M83 is at once a much darker and ambitious outfit, synthesizing love of classic rock with anachronistic electronics to create a sound familiar and alien, subtle and acute.

In 2004, the Riviera duo was whittled down to one -- 23-year-old Anthony Gonzalez. Though there are certainly traces of Dead Cities' particular breed of Vangelis-worship, Before the Dawn Heals Us moves into more poignant and -- dare we say it? -- pop territory. Small touches take the man out of the machine: The vocoder is replaced by Gonzalez at the mic, along with pianos, choral harmonies, and a flawed attempt at macabre storytelling. This recipe is alluring, and the record manages to acknowledge the band's new reduced incarnation with luminosity. Just check out the single "Don't Save Us from the Flames," a shimmering, theremin-driven burst of pop confidence that's as sweet as it is strategic. Recommended.

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Kelly Shindler

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