The Year Of The ‘Midnight City’

It’s really shaping up to be the year of the “Midnight City” in my little slice of the music sphere.

For those of you who haven’t been hanging out in my sphere, that is M83’s infectious and overpowering song “Midnight City.”

Pitchfork named it the number one track of the year this week. Here is what the trend-setting indie music site had to say about the song:

The strange career arc of M83 has seen Anthony Gonzalez move from epic drones to futuristic bombast to romantic new wave. Though there are clear threads, it’s been a process of zooming in, from expansive and open-ended drift to small, tightly-packed nuggets of pop emotion. And that long movement over the event horizon leads to “Midnight City”, M83’s most powerful and emotionally triumphant track.

Gonzalez has been comfortable in the realm of proper songwriting for a while, showing expertise in terms of fitting verses, choruses, and instrumental bridges into tracks you might play alone at a piano. But what’s most striking about “Midnight City” at first is that a huge part of its story comes from sound alone: its four compressed minutes pack in propulsive beats, urgent layers of vocals, loads of catchy synths, an insistent rhythm loop, and a zeitgeist-y saxophone outro that lets it all unravel just when it gets to be too much.

Beyond the force of the sound, “Midnight City”‘s code is tough to crack. You can listen to it a ridiculous number of times without needing to know what Gonzalez is even singing about. On one hand, it’s simply an impressionistic ode to city life, but it also feels like his ultimate tribute to the music that brought him here. He’s talked in interviews about the influence of the Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and from one angle “Midnight City” comes off like Gonzalez’s “1979”. The parallels are there, from the instantly memorable riff to the gentle sense of longing, but “Midnight City” feels like a song destined to move and change as it continues into the future. Rather than tapping into our collective memory, it’s a soundtrack for building new ones. –Brandon Stosuy

Then I went to another favorite music site, Stereogum, and found that its readers voted “Midnight City” their track of the year. Yes, I took part in the poll. And, yes, I voted for “Midnight City.” Score!

I posted the video for “Midnight City” here back when it first came out. But it’s worth doing it again for those of you who may have missed it.

What is your top song of the year?

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