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]

Albums Of The Year: 30-16

The year of 2008 is winding to a close, so it’s only appropriate that we wrap it up with our year-end albums list. We don’t expect many to necessarily agree with our list, but we worked really hard to make sure we had what we thought were the best thirty albums of the year. These are the records that spun over and over again in our heads and stereos, so this list is dedicated to their longevity in 2008.  We’ve conveniently broken it down into two segments, with albums 30-16 after the jump. Read more

Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Of Montreal have been purveyors of cool for quite some time now, and they are a group, or a man, continuing to push the boundaries of pop music. Here, Kevin Barnes, does his best to deconstruct pop structure in order to make Skeletal Lamping one of the more interesting listens of the year.

Let’s rid ourselves of the main flaw that is present on this album, and in fact, I’m quite disappointed with the lyrical output. Much has been made of Barnes’ alter-ego, a super-sexed black transsexual, but the presence of that person destroys a lot of the album’s credibility. Lyrically, this album pushes the limits of acceptance beyond it’s barrier, and although I’m sure various people’s will claim that “we can do it softcore, if you want,” but that doesn’t make the sexual innuendo worthy of our attention. Typically, Of Montreal albums maintain credible lyrics, in some manner, and sure, they exist here and there, but most will be turned off by the ridiculousness present.

Now, the band has continuously been moving towards an electronic sound since Satanic Panic in the Attic, and this album is what one can assume is the last step. For the most part, it’s difficult to find where full-band participation might come into play, as the majority of the skeletal instrumentation is electronic. However, the group, as per usual, splices their elements carefully throughout the backbone of electronic sounds. One of the highlights might be the horns on “An Eluardian Instance,” where they blast in with perfect accompaniment.

One of the most spectacular aspects of this album, based merely on Barnes’ attempt to tear down the walls of modern pop, is that listening to the entire thing is like going on a scavenger hunt for perfect pop gems. Harmonies abound, hopping in and out of the core of each song, hiding around the corners of our hearts. You must carefully follow through each song in order to get the most out of this album. It’s a daunting task.

Therein lies the problem most listeners will encounter. Can you stomach the hours of careful listening to find one of the most gratifying listening experiences around? It’s a hard choice for most, and one that most people will not be able to make until several listens of the album, and by that point it’s too late, you’ve already put it aside for the rest of the year. But, if you hold on for a couple more listens, you will be making some of the stranger mix tapes among your groups of friends, based solely on the fact that you used clips from the 47th second on when you decided to include “Death is Not a Parallel Move” on your year end mix.

It’s not an easy listen by any means, but weeks into your listening experience you will find that there are more and more elements you missed, ultimately asking you to return again and again to one of the more interesting listens of the year.

New Music From Of Montreal

Polyvinyl label greats Of Montreal have a new song called “Id Engager” which you can listen to below. The song will appear on the “Id Engager” single due September 9th available for pre-order on the Polyvinyl website. It will also appear on the band’s upcoming LP Skeletal Lamping, due out in October.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/of-montreal-id-engager.mp3]

Download: Of Montreal – Id Engager [MP3]