Words by Dennis Ruhlin

The non-band that is of Montreal gives us their latest LP, Lousy With Sylvianbriar, a personal tour of bandleader Kevin Barnes’ thought process after living briefly in San Francisco. Forgoing digital enhancements, the album features songs that are more lyrically driven, with “instrumental arrangements understated and uncluttered”. Make no mistake, this is a different trip then of Montreal of late, devoid of funky freakouts and psychedelic pop tunes, but instead reflects a simpler and purer sound of late 60’s rock with a dab of twang.

We begin with ‘Fugitive Air’, a tune sure to keep you grooving long after the song ends thanks in part to a sound reminiscent of Rolling Stones tracks you remember hearing in your parents’ car growing up. This simple opener sets us up for the rest of album with a dose of personality both lyrically and instrumentally. Fast forward a few years, and one track later, we arrive at ‘Obsidian Currents’, complete with the freaky early 70’s sound of Bowie in his prime, where we know it’s good, but we’re also left going ‘…what?’ It’s haunting and lingers via an eerie twang that ties this song and the whole album together.

We then flash back to the mid 60’s with ‘Belle Glade Missionaries’. This pop-yet-politically charged track criticizes both the us and the machine as evident in the chorus “they’re letting children get blown up in the schools today / so they can get them back into their factories / you know it pains me to see you all being so betrayed / but I guess you’ll never know so it doesn’t matter”.

The show stealer may be their already released single, ‘She Ain’t Speakin’ Now’, a back and forth of dispirited acoustic bridges, and heavy, beautiful yet tense choruses. But it should in no way cause you to skip any songs at any point in this wonderfully crafted album. From the edgy ‘Triumph of Disintegration’, to easy listening ‘Amphibian Days’, to the defiant protest pop rock ‘Hegira Émigré’, this album imparts the listener with optimism and cynicism in a way that can be enjoyed and brooded over for days.

Showcasing a variety of influences, from the Grateful Dead to Dylan to the Flying Burrito Brothers, Lousy With Sylvianbriar is an album you can share with friends or the old timers. While different from what I was expecting, this album quickly ended up becoming a personal favorite. This is an album you’re going to want to listen to a few times to let it soak in. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss it.

of Montreal
‘Lousy With Sylvianbriar’
© October 8th, 2013



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