Of Montreal's Most Recent Effort Sees Them Turn Down the Weird…A Little
Of Montreal have no doubt been the wizards of weird for almost two decades now. From their live performances which feature lead singer atop a white horse, to their full embrace of every musical style from afro beat to twee pop. This is why it is a good idea to expect the unexpected when delving into an Of Montreal album.
Their most recent output, Lousy With Sylvianbriar, continues this trend of being unexpected but in a way that sees the band mellow theirs songs rather than heighten the weirdness any further. Songs like “Sirens of Your Toxic Spirit” and “Amphibian Days” see the band take a more acoustically driven sound than Of Montreal fans may have come to expect. “Colossus” may be their most successful of the more low-key tracks on the album, driven mostly by piano and the somber, yet still eccentric lyrics of frontman Kevin Barnes. “Raindrop in my Skull” is another standout on Sylvianbriar, one so unexpected that it barely sounds like the same band as the rest of the album. This is partly because it features mostly a violin, guitar, and the voice of Rebecca Cash, who though a longtime member of the band is rarely used as the sole vocalist.
Longtime Of Montreal fans need not fret, there is plenty of weird thrown in there to satisfy. Possibly the best track, “Triumph of Disintegration” keeps with the bands tradition of zany lyrics and quick changes of pace that make you feel like you’re listening to three different songs that have somehow been perfectly melded together. “She Ain’t Speaking Now” is the highlight of the second half of Lousy With Sylvianbriar. It starts off like it may be one of their relaxed songs, with only Barnes’ voice and a quickly strumming guitar, but soon the chorus hits taking the listener into the extravagant sound that has come to classify the band.
Lyrically the album keeps with Barnes’ tradition of weird mixed with wit. Seemingly nonsensical story lines can still result in a few gems. For instance, “Belle Glade Missionaries”, chorus talks of “letting children get blown up in their schools today, so they can get them back into their factories”. A line, which coming from anyone else may seem like a not so well thought out social commentary, somehow has the ability to make you think.
This is album that, although toned down a bit, is far from garnering radio plays or crossover success. It is exciting though, to hear them change it up a bit while still keeping the same old quirks that have helped them span nearly two decades. As for new fans, I think this is a good way to ease into Of Montreal without being completely blown away by the strangeness. I think Barnes himself summed the band up better than I ever could “Still there’s value in things unpleasant”.