Let me start by saying that of Montreal is one of the most aurally divisive groups on the Indie scene. I, for one, am thankful that we audiophiles have such a brilliant musical act always at our fingertips. Their new album lousy with sylvianbriar is on the way (release is 10/8), and I’ve been avidly anticipating their new music. Their latest single has been released via rollingstone.com and you can check it out here :
‘she ain’t speakin now,’ is a return to form for of Montreal, whose recent sonic escapades have traversed emo-folk rock, trippy psycho-electronica, glam-rock, and avant-garde. Their ability to evolve with each successive album is unmatched and, frankly, a welcome addition to the current music scene. That being said, where in their canon does the new album fit in? Kevin Barnes, the lead singer, song-smith, and engineer extraordinaire, has described the new album as a ‘lyric driven, spontaneous, and instrumentally understated experience.’ Well, alrighty then.
Sonically, the new single does and doesn’t remind me of their earlier work. When I say ‘earlier,’ I mean the Cherry Peel era, which was reliant on lo-fi 60s folk aesthetic. Kevin has mentioned that sylvianbriar was recorded utilizing 60s-70s minimalism, i.e. 8 track, cassettes, etc…and I definitely can hear that coming through. It reminds me of earlier work because it is more…acoustic sounding than their last several records. When you compare the new track with, say, a track from ‘Paralytic Stalks,’ you are hard pressed to find similarities. In other words, the new track finds it’s footing in being a step in a totally new direction, while simultaneously using past material as inspiration.
For the most part, ‘she ain’t speakin now,’ is built on a mood shift between an aurally psychedelic verse and more grungy chorus. This is discernible because of how they establish the verse – sparse acoustic guitar strums, bare-bones percussion, reverb slide, and whispered vocals – and how they drive the chorus – overdubbed electric guitar, heavier vocal, etc…The selling point are the lead vocals, though. I have to admit, I LOVE Kevin’s vocals in this song. The previous single ‘fugitive air,’ was a bit unfocused and messy vocally, however I really found something…personal in ‘she ain’t speakin now,’ and those moments are what hold their catalogue together.
Kevin begins the song by describing a somewhat dour situation. It appears as if someone close to him is barely hanging on to life as he sings, ‘like some sepulchral tomb though I stay frozen holding your hand; i’m only trying to think positive thoughts, understand?,” and then, “will you ever be yourself again?” It’s quite eerie, provided you don’t know what inspired the song. Apparently, while recording sylvianbriar, his wife and daughter fell extremely ill and, because of the stress of meeting deadlines and trying to cure some dark disease, Kevin was a little distraught. You can practically hear him pleading to the Gods in the choruses. His choice to swing between a more sonically distant verse and raw chorus really impact me. Combining the message with the stripped production and live feeling of it all, puts you in his shoes. It turns you into a fly on the wall, watching the sweat trickle down Nina’s forehead.
of Montreal was always more successful when they were able to put all of their quirky affectations behind a powerful message or story. Kevin is a genius, and his genius works when you can pretend to be a part of it, not when you’re stuck analyzing it. Plus, their shows are always epic dance parties. So, while you might not always understand what’s happening, your feet don’t really care. If the new album is on par with ‘she ain’t speakin now,’ it will be a resounding success.
The fuzz rating? A 4 out of 5. The song is a must hear.
Check out their website for tour dates: www.ofmontreal.net