Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Album Review: Lousy With Sylvianbriar by of Montreal

The last couple of albums of Montreal released didn't seem to be on the same level as either their early work, or Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?. But from the very first preview of "Fugitive Air," it became clear that Lousy With Sylvianbriar was going to be a good album (or a bad album with a really good track on it). Fortunately, not only did the rest of the album live up to "Fugitive Air," but sometimes surpassed it, and the album art makes it totally possible to judge an album by its cover.

Lousy With Sylvianbriar actually kicks off with "Fugitive Air," a mostly-retro, low-fi song. "Fugitive Air" contains a line I can only assume to be a reference (or misheard lyric) to "Abraham, Martin and John" by Dion: "Has anybody here seen my orphan blonde?" But more importantly, "Fugitive Air" brings to mind early of Montreal tracks, but with the twist of all the musical elements they've explored since then, and a much "harder" 60s rock feel than they ever explored before. 

From there, the album moves on to "Obsidian Currents," which gives up the harder sound for some pedal steel and a floating feel. Certain elements of "Obsidian Currents" feel like they come straight off of George Harrison's self-titled album (although that's surely not the influence). One of the strongest tracks on the album, "Belle Glade Missionaries" is next, with a distinctly 60s country feel. Kevin Barnes said he was very inspired by 50s and 60s country music on this album, and you can hear it in the loveliest of ways.

"Sirens of Your Toxic Spirit" is another standout track, with a slower tempo and gorgeous harmonies. The following track, "Colossus" has a monotonous feel, that Barnes seems to use at times to express a feeling of stagnation. 

The album takes a clear stance of mental unrest on "Triumph of Disintegration," which begins by declaring "The last ten days have been a mother****er," and goes on to say  "I had to make myself a monster just to feel something//ugly enough to be true." Along with the lyrics on the subject of depression, which Barnes has been working on and perfecting for years, there's great guitar and a use of tambourine that hasn't properly been explored by any band in years. "Triumph of Disintegration" gives way to "Amphibian Days," which bridges the gap between monotony and carefully crafted beauty. 

The instrumental rock gets a little harder for "She Ain't Speakin' Now" and the very 60s, Bob Dylan-esque "Hegira Émigré," which is easily one of the highlights of the album. "Raindrop in My Skull" features beautiful lead vocals by Rebecca Cash as well as more slide guitar and tambourine. It's interesting the way Cash manages to perfectly echo and compliment the voice of Barnes. 

The album closes on "Imbecile Rages," a track which begins with a hard-rock feel, but wavers between gentle lyricism and angry sounds. "Imbecile Rages" perfectly wraps up the album, in terms of both sound and overall feel. 

Lousy With Sylvianbriar does a terrific job of both maintaining a homogeneous sound, and not being boring, of sounding old and new, and of sounding like a concept album at both the start and finish, but not really seeming as though it's trying to be a concept album. Luckily, of Montreal have gotten their groove back, and it would be a mistake to miss out on it.

of Montreal are a rock band from Atlanta, Georgia.

Lousy With Sylvianbriar is out today and can be purchased here.

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