Of Montreal – False Priest

Rating: ★★½ · ·

What can a band due ten albums into their career to mix it up?  Well, Of Montreal seem to use a bit of a stronger R&B influence on False Priest to add a little twist to their traditionally humorous pop smorgasbord.  This album lives fairly close to the group’s pastiche, and to top it off, it’s a lot more cohesive than their last record, Skeletal Lamping.

Groovy Kevin Barnes brings his high-pitched falsetto to the forefront right from the get go on “I Feel Ya Stutter,” but he also utilizes his speak-sing formula, much as he will do throughout the record.  Fans of the group will notice the traditional hooks still remain, as well as the effortless layering of various harmonies, but its the vocals that seem more experimental here, trying to toss a bit of soul into it all. “Coquet Coquette,” while groovier in its composition, going back to the R&B influence perhaps, is probably the strongest number on False Priest, and one resembling the band’s previous hits.  It has a building guitar and a bit of suave, taking Barne’s driving vocal to push the song through to its space-age ending.

One of the things that differentiates this effort is the presence of guess vocalists, namely Janelle Monae.  Her smooth voice does add a nice little touch to “Enemy Gene,” but the song overall isn’t quite as successful as it could be.  There’s no huge battle between pop and catastrophe that Kevin has walked so well in the past, rather its just sort of a straight ahead pop track that really just stands in one place. Solange Knowles also pops her head up in “Sex Karma,” and while her performance might not be nearly as attractive as Monae’s, the song uses clever bass lines and electronic touches to actually construct the song, not to mention the call-and response vocals add a touch of playfulness. That being said, its nice to see Of Montreal trying to incorporate new ideas to mix it up, though they’ve always sort of been mixing it up, right?

While the past of the group has had all these incredible shifts in sonic approaches from record to record, they group has never really taken a straight approach at writing indie pop songs of the  ordinary sort.  But, take “Famine Affair,” one of the finer tracks on False Priest, and you should notice that this is about as simple as KB can write.  You could easily pump this in the morning to get you going, though you’ll never claim it to be one of the band’s greatest hits. Still, catchy tracks never hurt.

It’s always great to see the journey that Kevin Barnes and Of Montreal will take us on, as they always have something up their sleeve, but this effort isn’t one of the most successful efforts in sonic exploration the group has put together.  It’s uneven in a lot of places, if not all of them.  False Priest, of course, has high points like “Coquet Coquette” and “Famine Affair,” but perhaps a bit of editing here and there might have made it all seem a bit tighter, a bit less scattered.  All that said, you’re going to buy it, as you should, just to make sure Kevin Barnes keeps coming up with crazy ideas with which to present to his adoring audience.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/03-Coquet-Coquette-1.mp3]

Download: Of Montreal – Coquet Coquette [MP3]

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