Of Montreal: Lousy With Sylvianbriar
“Restless” is a good word to use when describing Of Montreal’s output. The past decade has seen Kevin Barnes’ project go from indie rock to dancey electro-heavy psychedelic pop.
But the group was in a bit of a holding pattern lately, especially with last year’s Paralytic Stalks, which stretched the electro funk to its limits with manic glitch-noise excursions and increasingly frenetic and atypical song structures and fireworks that were already Barnes’ songwriting standards.
So it’s surprising to hear Of Montreal make an about-face on Lousy With Sylvianbriar (though obviously Barnes’ knack for WTF album and song titles is very much intact), largely eschewing all the indie dance party extravaganza for a relatively straightforward set of folk-driven indie rock that actually takes some time to breathe with some slower tempos, while stepping out of the computer for full-band arrangements (not hearing so many drum machines anymore).
Not that the rhythm is gone though. “Belle Glade Missionaries” has a driving, foot-tapping groove, and “Triumph of Disintegration” has a plenty-funky bassline through its verses with a sunny chorus, sort of the blueprint for the uptempo tracks. And then there’s “Hegira Emigre,” with its garage rock stomp and dreamy chorus.
There are plenty of down moments as well: “Sirens of Your Toxic Spirit” is a sedate, acoustic-driven track with nice vocal orchestrations, and the sorrowful “Raindrop in My Skull,” with its female lead vocal ups the ante for rainy ’60s folk.
The lyrics are as Barnes as ever though, and with lines like, “If you’re thinking I’m caucasian, well I’m actually gray; I was conceived on Ash Wednesday and stoned on Christmas Day,” and “Your mother hung herself in the National Theater, when she was four months pregnant with your sister” it’s clear that he’s still got as much absurdity and bite as you’d expect.
Much credit to Barnes for changing things up and hitting the reset button on Of Montreal. Who’s to say where it goes from here, but it’s nice to hear some songs without the dance fever for a change.