Posts Tagged ‘Of Montreal’

of Montreal

Rune Husk

Polyvinyl Records, 2017of-montreal-rune-husk-cover

Review by Kent Manthie

Kevin Barnes and company, hard at work as per custom, has just put out something new since they’re most recent output, Innocence Reaches last year. The new product’s an EP, entitled Rune Husk, a four-song sampler of what’s happening with of Montreal, pride of Athens, GA.

Rune Husk is a bit more subdued than is expected from an of Montreal disc, but, the songwriting, as usual, has the same charming, urbane wit fans of the band have come to expect. Think of it as a mellower, mature smattering of psych-pop with a dreamy, orange swirl gyrating around the middle.

The album begins with the low-key “Internecine Larks”, which will pull you in out of curiosity. “Stag to the Table” kicks it up a notch and for the second half of the EP, “Widowsucking” suddenly harkens back to the reason you like these guys in the first place. Definitely the highlight of Rune Husk, “Widowsucking” has a delectable taste you can’t get enough of.

Another thing about Rune Husk is the placement of the guitar licks in a bigger, more accentuated place. It fits in nicely with the rest of the musical electronica that envelops much of their music. Along with the same creative, sharp lyrical wit Kevin’s honed over the years; his skills haven’t yet begun to wane; the genius of it all fits so well with the underlying music; music that compels you to bob your head back and forth or tap your feet to the pulsating, disco-pop groove and it’s in “Widowsucking” that the music reverts back to a more sublime, surreal, psychedelic-club-power-pop, with clever lyrics and music, wedded together in a blissful union. The EP’s closer, “Island Life” is a great follow-up, yet it manages to unify the softer “Internecine Larks” with of Montreal’s signature sound quite gracefully.

I’m hoping to be back reviewing a new, full length of Montreal disc in the near future. What will be next? That’s always an interesting thing to think of, when mulling over the state of typical nauseating corporate pop slop so ubiquitous these days. But thank goodness for the whole indie network of small labels, DIY-ers and those who spurn the rheumy caterwauling one can’t get away from on the radio. Without outlets such as Polyvinyl, Jade Tree or Castle Face Music, to name just a few, it would be a lot harder to get in touch with the cream of the crop. Popular opinion be damned! –KM.

of Montreal

Innocence ReachesInnocence Reaches cover

Polyvinyl Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

It’s been about 11 years now, since I reviewed Satanic Panic in the Attic. Since that time, of Montreal have been blossoming and they continue to amaze. Their new album, Innocence Reaches is due to be released August 12th. Luckily I was able to get a hold of a press-issued copy so I could listen to it- over & over!- and then write up a review.

Well, first off, I must say that Innocence Reaches shows that Barnes & co. are still going strong. Kevin’s psycho-sexual, poetic lyrics are still in the mix. The song that of Montreal (or whomever it is that “picks” out what song will be a “single”) is releasing as the first single from Innocence Reaches is “It’s Different for Girls”, which has great lyrics; a kind of androgynous meditation on gender roles and the boxes people get put into, identity-wise; but in this case, Barnes wants to show that the old paradigm of “traditional” marriage (whatever that means) has, at long last, been replaced by a new, forward-looking, tradition-be-damned kind of thinking. However, even though “It’s Different for Girls” is the first single, myself, I actually liked “Gratuitous Abysses” better, just thought it a little groovier, but don’t get me wrong, I like both songs. Then comes the laid-back, floating feeling of “My Fair Lady”.

So, Innocence Reaches is of Montreal’s 14th album, a follow-up to last year’s delightful Aureate Gloom as well as the great live album, Snare Lustrous Doomings, capturing some great live stuff from Japan.

One thing I’m noticing about this album is that the tunes – some of them, anyway -have a little more edginess to them. I’m thinking of “Les Chants de Maldoror”, for one, which has some nice guitar work on it. “Chaos Arpeggiating” is also a great example of what makes this such a fabulous album. As far as I can tell, this tune shows of Montreal in a more rocking context. Of course, I don’t mean to imply that they suddenly turned into a metal band or anything like it. No, oM, since I first discovered them for myself, via a review, I saw them metamorphosing over the next couple years. For example, after Satanic Panic in the Attic, they came back with Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer, which, ever since I first listened to it, had changed from the jingle-jangle, psychedelic-pop of the previous albums, they got more and more experimental, musically. Then, the next year, oM came out with Skeletal Lamping, which, for me, anyway, was a real treat: a great album, with sonic precision, great lyrics, and songs that were mesmerizing. Then, after False Priest and a couple other albums, of Montreal put out Lousy With Sylvanbriar, which, I think, was the beginning of a new phase for of Montreal. What I mean is that it seems like Lousy… was the album that started oM on the road to a new paradigm: one that infused a little bit more of an edge to it, but without losing that singular sound that of Montreal does with such passion and flair.

Another funky, mellow tune is “Ambassador Bridge”, which is a catchy tune about a girl named Sara and how she’s “Coming down from Detroit”. It too is a soothing, laid back tune with infectious hooks and grooves.

All in all, Innocence Reaches is a remarkable album; it shows that Kevin Barnes and co. are still hard at work, doing their best to make the best music they can- all for you! As I wrote above, Innocence Reaches doesn’t come out until August 12th, but, if you’d like to have a sneak peak at the new video for “It’s Different for Girls”, then see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_WDugKPnlk.

The more I listen to Innocence Reaches, the more I like it. I assure you, long after I’ve finished this review, I’ll still be listening to Innocence Reaches just because I like it. One more thing: if you are intrigued by the cover art, well, that can be credited to Kevin Barnes brother, David, who has good artistic skills. This isn’t the first of Montreal album David’s designed; he’s done some intricate, trippy artwork for some previous albums. So, in closing, I just want to say that Innocence Reaches is a splendid, grand album which shows that of Montreal still has “it”. One thing, I must say: this album has really pricked up my ears: it’s a shift forward from their last few albums, which is always a good thing; if you’re in a band, you definitely don’t want to have a big splash on first being heard only to have that certain magic fade over the next few albums. To avoid this, a band needs to be flexible, willing to adapt and it doesn’t hurt to be a little ahead of the times! Good times, good times. -KM.

of Montreal group photo

oF Montreal

Daughter of Cloud

Polyvinyl Records

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Of Montreal, coming on the heels of their recently released Paralytic Stalks, has just come out with Daughter of Cloud, a 17-song mélange of superb outtakes, extras and whatnot, from the same sessions.  This shows that Kevin Barnes & Co. have been working madly, writing, recording and then sitting on a goldmine of a wonderful and unique cosmic radiance that harkens back to disco, but jams it with 20,000 volts of juice that continue the brilliance that they’ve been bringing to life for the past 10+ years.  Over the course of their great arc of genius, since 2005’s Satanic Panic in the Attic, I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing all their subsequent releases.  While Satanic Panic… was a lysergic pop sensation, cute and with a kitschy charm all its own, that still didn’t prepare me for the future– the next release, 2007’s Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer? was a blast – a pleasant surprise that took unexpected twists and turns and really made me sit up and take notice.  This was especially poignant at a time when I was going through about 20 CDs a week or so, many of which were mediocre at best, some good, some bad, but very little of it was outstandingly awesome – or conversely, considerably awful – enough for a passionate review.

But I  wasn’t prepared for what came next:  2008’s Skeletal Lamping.  A genius release of immense proportions, I was dazzled by the complexity, captivated by its unique, androgynous unfettered sexuality.  When I received Skeletal Lamping, my mind was, at first, focused on it with my reviewer’s hat on, being objective, listening closely to try and get inside the mind of Kevin Barnes, who writes all the songs and is the main man of this Athens, GA-based band.  I had to go through it at least twice in order to not miss anything and to revisit what I may have missed or misinterpreted.  After finishing the review, however, its sustained flying of the freak flag had so blown my mind, I put it on my Windows Media Player, where it lives a nice life now and comes out often to be a part of my MP3  lineup.  Listening to Skeletal Lamping was something that I did quite often for the first few months, not that it’s now just sitting there, taking up space – I still listen to it whenever I feel the urge to tune in and drop out.  One thing that adds an ethereal mystique to Skeletal Lamping was the way the songs melt into each other; the songs have a tactile complexity which doesn’t let up and morph into one another, making it difficult to recognize where one ends and the next begins, making it necessary for one to listen to all 15 songs in one sitting, for example, I can’t think of picking out one particular song to listen to, disembodied, as it were, from the rest of the album, although, “Women’s Studies Victims” and “Beware Our Nubile Miscreants” are both worth mentioning as blissful examples of Kevin Barnes’s talented songwriting style.  Skeletal Lamping is a carousel ride on acid that knocked me out and threw me down a rabbithole that upended my top-heavy, ennui-filled life and after a whirligig of a ride I was spit out the other side and sent back to society, awakening as if from a dream.  Look out for “Feminine Effects” as well; you’ll be, well, interested, in some way, I’m sure, by the country influences that show up, as with the pedal steel guitar you hear, playing in the background.  They end Daughter of Cloud with a beautiful, genuine version of “Expecting to Fly”, the Neil Young classic.

The cover of an old Neil Young song by of Montreal just proves once again that Neil, ever the renaissance man, has appealed to three generations of musicians and music-lovers.  His songs constitute a self-made genre, one all his own that has snaked through the years all over the place, not necessarily changing with the wind, a la the Rolling Stones, but rather, setting down a style, unique, all his own, that just happens to never let itself be stuck in a bygone era.  He may be aging a bit and he’s still making music, but, unlike a lot of his peers from that era, he is not what you’d call a “dinosaur”, as he makes a point to keep things fresh and not dwell on the past.  Anyone who has seen him in concert anytime in the past 20 years, say, can attest to the fact that he doesn’t go through the motions of singing a “greatest hits” revue of his older relics from a previous age, even though there are some that are timeless and still are as fresh today as ever .

But, back to the band at hand:  of Montreal have done a great service in releasing these precious new tunes that, for one, put out there 17 new songs for longtime fans as well as newcomers, alike.  Anyone else wishing to get a taste of the future, would do well to start with Daughter of Cloud, this new OM CD, since because or despite the drifting away from what they sounded like circa Satanic Panic in the Attic, of Montreal have been experimenting with more electronics and a kind of 21st Century Schizoid Clubkid.  Well, whatever you want to label of Montreal, just don’t call them emo!!! (because they’re far from being so, which is why I was trying to be funny.

Bottom line here:  of Montreal’s new album, Daughter of Cloud is one of the best they’ve done in a while.  While I was a little disappointed in False Priest -at least, when I wrote that I was writing that, “saying”this because False Priest was the follow-up to the wonderful,, brilliant, Skeletal Lamping a real statement.  The exact message is a bit unclear, but it sounds like it’s going to take a lot of psychedelics which can help to open people’s minds, possibly change some (hopefully “some” means “many”!) to help get over the behaviors and the concomitant problems arising out of them.   I think that, if you’re in the right frame of mind, Skeletal Lamping can be a great starting off point for you; not just musically, but artistically, more broadly speaking, as well as leading by example and not be a jerk like several so-called “Rockstars” (I hate that term) who’ve appointed themselves political & social spokespeople for various causes, ugh, how nauseating.  Not so with of Montreal, though- no matter whether you’re listening to Satanic Panic…or Lousy With Sylvanbriar or this new album, which, as I’ve written above, in so many words, is not only a wonderful album, but it heralds a bolder, more experimental of Montreal.  Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about, well, say, 84% of music, overall.   Right now I’m just happy that Barnes and his fellow performers are as strong a force as ever and they are continually making great music that keeps churning and burning and keep the faithful out there satisfied while awaiting the next great breath of Bacchus.  -KM