Jakob's Album Reviews

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of Montreal – “Lousy With Sylvianbriar” – ALBUM REVIEW

of Montreal “Lousy With Sylvianbriar”

lousy-with-sylvianbriar

One of the more prolific bands attached to the Elephant 6 collective is known as of Montreal. They were formed in 1997 by Kevin Barnes who is the sole original member of the band. Of Montreal have gone on to achieve quite a high amount of acclaim since forming and have reached a level of fame that made them the first Elephant 6 band I ever heard (yes, I heard them before I ever heard Neutral Milk Hotel). While of Montreal’s career isn’t 100% classics, they do have a few excellent albums, including their 2007 magnum opus “Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?” Fans and critics alike have applauded Kevin Barnes’ laid back sound that is characterized by his offbeat lyrics, genre-blending psychedelic aesthetic, and overall pleasurable sound that makes his group one of the best psychedelic rock groups of the past 20 years.

Few of Montreal albums have been rated as highly as “Hissing Fauna” or their 2001 album “Coquelicot Asleep In The Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse,” which makes one wonder whether this band is just going to continue releasing lackluster albums like last year’s “Paralytic Stalks,” which is not one of their better records. Well apparently 6 is the lucky number for of Montreal, because  6 years after their last beloved album comes what could be one of their best albums ever.

“Lousy With Sylvianbriar” is a fun, laid-back album full of some of the darkest, strangest, funniest lyrics Kevin Barnes has ever written. At one point he talks about someone posting naked gifs of their epileptic fits to get hits. “Lousy” is an album that is funny in that way without it being done in an overly kitschy way. “Lousy” is a perfect combination of good-humored psychedelic rock that calls back the Syd Barrett era of Pink Floyd with the songwriting voice of a member of Animal Collective. It even manages to find some incredibly beautiful moments, like the song “Sirens of Your Toxic Spirit,” which has some wonderfully placed harmonic vocals a la Beach Boys.

Some could argue that this album is just a boring psych rock callback record from a band that doesn’t really matter, and that’s an understandable claim. But what really keeps this album apart from others in the genre is that it can find itself being very serious, and even in those moments it’s just as catchy and well-constructed as the happier songs. “Colossus,” for example, is extremely depressing lyrically, but it’s still just as groovy as the subsequent song “Triumph of Disintegration,” which is significantly more light-hearted (although it is still a dark song).

“Lousy With Sylvianbriar” is a fascinating record that fuses early Weezer garage pop, 13th Floor Elevators psychedelia, and a fantastical Elephant 6 spin in a way that hasn’t been this fun in years. It’s ridiculously and almost impossibly infectious, very well written, and one of 2013’s highlights. It’s not too long, not too ridiculous, not self indulgent, and was exactly what I imagine MGMT fans were hoping for with their new record.

SCORE – 9.1

FAVORITE TRACKS – Fugitive Air, Belle Glade Missionaries, Sirens of Your Toxic Spirit, Colossus, Triumph of Disintegration, Amphibian Days, She Ain’t Speakin’ Now, Hegira Émigré, Imbecile Rages

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