On Tuesday, of Montreal – who are actually from Athens, Georgia and not Montreal, Quebec – will release their 13th album – Aureate Gloom. It’s an expansive album that spans from rock to pop to punk to punk-rock and takes the sounds of so many great artists from the ’70s and ’80s. In some ways, it’s like of Montreal has created their own “Tribute Album”, but with original music. Even of Montreal front man and mastermind Kevin Barnes calls it a “meandering album”. We offer our First Impressions of the new album, which is streaming on NPR until Monday night. You can also pre-order it at Polyvinyl Records, iTunes, and Amazon and follow of Montreal at their website, Facebook, and Twitter.
I almost feel like I just listened to half of Foxygen’s “….And Star Power”, which was another album that fluctuated all over the place with no real cohesive theme. Maybe Foxygen rubbed off on Barnes a bit considering they also guested on that album. It is not surprising considering the expansive discography from of Montreal has gone in many different directions. Being an Of Montreal fan, I was hoping for something awesome like Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? and this just wasn’t it.
Just like Foxygen’s release, there are some strong and notable tracks on Aureate Gloom, and it might be the most brooding and almost bizarre lyrically for Barnes. “Monolithic Egress” and “Aluminum Crown” are both a great representation of the album, as the songs just cycle through a myriad of different sounds. “Apollyon of Blue Room” and “Empyrean Abattoir” totally have a 70s rock vibe going on and then “Chthonian Dirge for Uruk the Other” breaks off into some psych/punk thing which isn’t half bad. My favorites are “Bassem Sabry”, “Like Ashoka’s Inferno of Memory”, and the much slower paced “Estocadas”.
For of Montreal Fans, I believe this album will tie you over until the next one and provide a few good tracks for Barnes’ fans, but as a whole album or for anyone just now being introduced to of Montreal, they might listen and be just like Ben’s response saying “What the….?” I give it about a 75% thumbs up.
of Montreal have always had a knack for making strange, yet fun music. Judging even by its name, it seems that Aureate Gloom has a different vibe. It’s definitely heavily influenced by the 1970s New York music scene, but it does still have the recognizable of Montreal vibe to it.
The first track, “Bassem Sabry”, is similar to the mid-2000’s of Montreal we fell in love with, but the album goes into many different directions throughout. Songs like “Apollyon of Blue Room” and “Empyrean Abattoir” are textbook 70s rock and roll. There are tracks that are all over the place like “Aluminum Crown” and “Virgilian Lots”. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it makes the album lack any kind of real flow. Hell, the closer, “Like Ashoka’s Inferno of Memory” has some heavy metal riffs before becoming something reminiscent of T. Rex.
I commend of Montreal and Kevin Barnes for doing something different from their last few efforts. While there’s some really great stuff here, it’s just mixed in with a whole mess of hit and miss moments that prevent the album from reaching the heights they set with earlier records like The Sunlandic Twins, or Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer. I’ll give this a thumbs middle – it’s good but not great, and compared to other albums in the discography, it’s something I’d pass on.
Aureate Gloom in many ways reflects of Montreal’s discography – some great moments, some not-so-great moments, but always filled with surprises. From the album’s title to the names of the songs – all representing terms used in the past or from cultures around the world – the album is all over the place. Right from the start, we’re smacked in the face with the eccentric, space rock-disco tune (from the lyrics to the music), “Bassem Sabry”. It’s like The Flaming Lips on a serious trip.
The sexual innuendo continues on “Empryean Abattoir”, which almost seems like something from a chapter out of a psychology text book on Freud. The track, itself, though is pretty catchy. “Estocadas” sees Barnes and company do their best Bowie/Ziggy Stardust impersonation, and it’s pretty good. Meanwhile, “Chthonian Dirge for Uruk the Other” is just whacky punk rock that combusts into a bunch of gnarled guitars and noise a la an experimental rock tune. Then you get a moody, multi-genre song like “Virgillian Lots”, which is part indie folk a la The Decemberists, part alt-country-rock like Wilco, and part indie-rock in the mold of Neutral Milk Hotel.
It’s tough to elevate this album because it’s not cohesive, the lyrics are way over the top at times, and it seems every track just astonishes in a different way. You might be like me and say, “What the f*** is this?”, after first listen, and then after a couple of other spins you might say, “This isn’t so bad after all.” It’s not an album that will be easily digested, but at times it’s pretty fun and just wildly imaginative. So, I’ll give it a slight thumbs up.
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