August 7, 2013
Styley Songs: M83 and the Pleasures of Nostalgia
Earlier this summer, someone suggested making a playlist that would motivate and inspire me every time I listened to it. Since I’ve got a lot of new stuff happening right now—I’m basically switching careers—a matching soundtrack for this particular piece of the movie of my life seemed appropriate. The cornerstone of this soundtrack was the song “Midnight City,” by M83.
I know I’m late to the M83 party. They’ve been around since 2001, and it’s now 2013. Whatever. Better late than never. According to Wikipedia—which, by the way, is a source I never allowed my students to use when I was teaching, so sorry for the hypocrisy, guys—the band is named after the spiral galaxy Messier 83, which makes them, in my mind, even cooler than I thought they were before.
I’ve always been drawn to music that sounds happy but has dark lyrics. If you don’t know what I mean, proceed immediately to Spotify and listen to the collected works of the Magnetic Fields. They’ll make you want to dance and kill yourself at the same time, which, oddly enough, is kind of pleasurable. Or maybe that’s just me.
M83 has that weird happy/sad thing, but their real draw is the deep and powerful nostalgia their music evokes in me. I’m reminded of the first time I saw Some Kind of Wonderful, hands down my favorite John Hughes film, although Lucas is also pretty heartbreaking (again, in a pleasurable way). I watched the movie, sobbed as though my heart would break, then immediately watched it again. In between these two viewings, my mother came to check on me. She noticed my swollen eyes and asked what was wrong. When I tried to explain it to her, she looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe I was/am, but for some reason those tears felt important, proof that I was able to feel things powerfully. And that power, that strength, seemed like an essential part of being alive. Even then, I knew I wanted more of that feeling, whatever it was. I see now that it was the first time I understood, even if I couldn't articulate it, what it means to be human and in this world, and what a privilege it is to experience all the great and terrible things this world has to offer.
Do you know what I mean?