lousy with sylvianbriar Album Review
Released October 8, 2013
Genre: Indie Pop, Psychedelic Pop, Psychedelic Rock, Folk Rock, Indie Folk
Psychedelic pop/folk outfit Of Montreal return to their musical roots with simple, organic instrumentation and less electronic production resulting in a grand and impressive return from the Georgia band.
If you’re new to Of Montreal, do not fret. The point of this article is to expand your musical horizons. This Georgia based rock band started out in the late 90s as a psychedelic folk/pop project headed by lead singer Kevin Barnes. The band is also part of the acclaimed Elephant 6 Recording Company collective, which includes other bands such as The Apples In Stereo, Circulatory System, and Neutral Milk Hotel (my personal favorite).
The collective is known for their psychedelic folk/rock/pop sound, common throughout each of the band’s releases. However, throughout Of Montreal’s beefy discography (this is their 12th studio album), they began to incorporate more production trickery and electronic instrumentation. These new techniques gave their sound a unique quality, but unfortunately for me, the change in the sound, while interesting, didn’t really fit well. The synths tended to become irritating and detracted me from the focus of the songs and the psych folk sound that I had grown to love. But then again, that’s just me.
Opening up, the track “Fugitive Air” starts with a psychedelic, bluesy vibe while the bass stays busy, and the drums steadily chase the rhythm. The memorable melodies and bluesy riffs make this track even more enjoyable. The electronic aspect here is very subtle, letting more folk rock instruments shine and come forward.
“Obsidian Currents” enters with a great keyboard intro, Barnes’s voice is intimately delivered, menacing in content and in themes. “There is a Virus in Your Tenets,” sung very nonchalantly by the group, sounds like something off of The Beatles’ seminal Sgt Pepper album. It’s somewhat alarming and a little disturbing but intriguing for the most part as the track grooves with a great, simple bass part and stripped down, mellow instrumentation.
“Belle Glade Missionaries” sounds like the band took a track off of John Mayer’s new LP and injected it with psychedelic juice. The careening organs, melodic backup vocals, and Barnes’ manic voice keep this song consistent with the tone of the album as the same guitar riff rings over and over, dripping with a bluesy/psychedelic touch. It’s an astounding track, and again the lyrical content has me puzzled and appalled all at once.
The next track, “Sirens of Your Toxic Spirit” is a down tempo ballad that has the listener wondering if Barnes can make it as a poet, aside from Of Montreal. The lyrics are eloquently delivered, and the emotional tone kicks in as Barnes sings about addictions and broken friendships in his muted, subdued voice. It’s indeed an infectious tune and is a great deviation from the up tempo tracks opening this LP. “Colossus” epitomizes this entire album as a whole in my opinion. The reverberated psychedelic guitars, grooving bass, simple beat and obscure, intimate lyrics remain a highlight on this album.
“Triumph of Disintegration” is where lyrical content kicks it up a notch. (Be careful when playing this in public, the first four seconds do grab your attention. The FIRST FOUR) His voice screeches as a great, busy bass line, danceable guitar riffs, and sweet vocal melodies make this track an obvious highlight and the occasional head bobber. It switches up towards the middle as Barnes’s and keyboardist Dottie Alexander’s voices intertwine to produce volatile vocals: “I had to make myself a monster just to feel something ugly enough to be true.” The tone becomes really menacing yet heartfelt and emotional. It’s a superb feeling that they are able to communicate, and it’s one of the things that makes this album so good–surreal yet profound.
“Amphibian Days” rarely switches up, but it’s groovy for the most part as Barnes’ sounds a bit drowsy here from his vocal delivery. The opening riffs for “She Ain’t Speaking Now” wake him up eventually as his screech rustles through the track as acoustic and electric guitars open the track with some organic instrumentation, but that goes away quickly as psychedelic influences take their toll.
The album then boasts many other tracks with influences ranging from folk rock to indie rock to funk to the basic core of psychedelic music. The instrumentation is simple yet well orchestrated and composed. The stripped down sound of it all helps focus the album a lot more on the music rather than the production tricks and erratic synthesizers from their previous works; however, when electronic instrumentation appears on this album, it doesn’t distract the listener from the primary focus that Of Montreal tries to achieve here.
Towards the end of “Hegira Émigré”, the screeching synths don’t really overpower the drums, bass, and guitar, to result in a solid and well produced track. They don’t hesitate to rock out during the last eight seconds of the track once the synths are done too and create a great closer to the song.
The only problem I found here was that they don’t really balance the tracks between “ballads” and “psychedelic rock” tunes. “Sirens of Toxic Waste” and “Obsidian Currents” are probably the only ballads on this album. Moreover, on “Imbecile Rages”, Barnes’ voice becomes increasingly irritating toward the end as he belts out a rough screech, worse than on “She Ain’t Speaking Now”. That distracts the focus from the great composed track, making the song not as memorable as it could be.
On this LP, Of Montreal gives a solid release. They connect with the instrumentation found in their early works, and Barnes’ songwriting is still menacing, manic yet heartfelt. However, his vocal delivery and lyrical content communicate across the intimate and disturbing planes of emotion, which he consistently gives on every track here.
The songs are cohesive; however, there isn’t much diversity in instrumentation. The band does however balance each style they bring into this album perfectly. There isn’t too much rock, and there isn’t too much psychedelic flair; it’s a happy medium. I do love the switch up from their previous works though. Subtle electronic instrumentation is a good direction for them, really bringing out the talented strengths that the band is capable of. All in all, if there’s anything to get from this, it’s that you need to listen to this album and get lousy with sylvianbriar. Whatever that means. Ironically, this album is far from lousy.
PRETTY NEAT MUSIC
FAV TRACKS: Fugitive Air, Obsidian Currents, Belle Glade Missionaries, Sirens of Your Toxic Spirit, Colossus, Triumph of Disintegration, She Ain’t Speaking Now, Hegira Émigré,
LEAST FAV TRACK: Imbecile Rages