I’ve been a fan of Of Montreal for quite some time, but I’ll admit that my fandom has been relegated to the bench as the group has indulged in a more electronically enhanced sound. But, from the moment I put on Lousy with Sylvianbriar, I was transported back to the earlier days of the band, leaving me with one of the best pieces of music the band has released in some time.
“Fugitive Air” kicks off things on Lousy with Sylvianbriar, almost immediately setting a new tone. There’s a meandering guitar line that holds onto elements of slide work, whilst Kevin Barnes erupts in a fashion that only he can. Standing out to me, here, is the fact that the orchestration still includes those classical elements like tinkering piano and group harmonies. Personally, I think a great touch is when the track opts to slow down around the 2:00 mark; it’s a nice change of pace. While the first piece offers an alternative-world interpretation of psych-pop, the smoothed out ballad of “Obsidian Currents” that follows makes the opening minutes quite remarkable. It all begins with Barnes taking the lead, crooning over a simple bass line and drum track. The song’s success, however, revolves around the evolution of the track, which builds up with a strummed acoustic piece that finishes with group harmonies. This is the Of Montreal that I love so dearly.
Perhaps one of the best things about this album is that it combines Kevin’s inclination to change time signatures and tempos mid-track, which he’s done forever, but is much more pronounced on tracks like “Belle Glade Missionaries.” The group offers up a swinging bit of crafty pop, allowing listeners to bob their heads, albeit momentarily. At 2:22, roughly, the track takes on this very light mood, with strings ornately dancing around Barnes, waiting for him to blast out with a quick vocal delivery; the pace of the movement is dizzying, but endearing nonetheless. These are the gifts that the band has always possessed, but I suppose I connect more when there’s actual instruments spinning me on my head.
I know that I’m supposed to love and adore “She Ain’t Speakin Now,” and I do, but it’s the tracks that lead up to it that really encouraged my affirmation of faith in Of Montreal. That track’s chorus is just ridiculously delicious, and comes in as one of my favorite moments in music this year. But, you should all go listen to “Colossus.” The storytelling within this song illustrates precisely why Mr. Barnes has always been one of the most interesting lyricists. I love the nakedness and solemnity of the tune. And, to follow it up with the playful “Triumph of Disintegration” is a smart choice. Using a shaker to accent the angular knifing of the guitar wins every time in my heart; is it a possible ode to Northern soul?
Honestly, I’ve had a hard time looking through this album for a track that I could discard, or even dismiss for the cynics purpose; it’s just not possible. Using less of an electronic touch on Lousy with Sylvianbriar has allowed Barnes and company to create these great bits of pop music that just can’t be ignored. Sure, he includes snippets within snippets of songs, but they seem so much more meaningful with a full band backing things up during the recordings. I know there are a few of you out there looking for this sort of return to glory from Of Montreal, and this record’s just that. It’s a motherfucker; I mean that in the best way possible.