Release Date: Oct 23, 2012
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
Ever prolific, of Montreal have also tended to be incredibly eclectic. Though over the last six years, their albums have become generally more accessible, even while indulging frontman Kevin Barnes’ restless experimentation with sound and songwriting. Collecting rarities and B-sides from this period, Daughter of Cloud is a surprisingly cohesive showcase of hooks and frenetic energy.
Athens, Georgia indie pop collective Of Montreal have changed costumes dramatically more than once. Centered around the always verbose songs of Kevin Barnes, their earliest albums were psychedelic twee freakouts, which gave way to more disco-informed pop around the time of 2004's Satanic Panic in the Attic and culminated in the group's most fully formed work on 2007's electro-pop epic Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? That album was marked by a shift toward darker lyrical topics, with Barnes getting into the depths of divorce, psychotic episodes, and multiple personalities all while turning in some of the most accessible music of Of Montreal's discography. Daughter of Cloud is a lengthy collection of outtakes and B-sides beginning around the time of Hissing Fauna, and running through to 2011.
of MontrealDaughter of Cloud[Polyvinyl; 2012]By Joshua Pickard; November 1, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetof Montreal are no strangers to leftovers. At last count, they’ve released three separate albums of b-sides, remixes, and rarities, and there’s no doubt that they have enough discarded songs sitting around in some dark studio collecting dust for one or two more collections. If you count Horse & Elephant Eatery (No Elephants Allowed): The Singles and Songles Album, The Early Four Track Recordings, and Satanic Twins, not to mention numerous tour-only EP’s and vinyl-exclusive releases, of Montreal seems about as restless a band as any in recent memory.
Back when the Athens, Ga. , rockers were dropping tracks like “Disconnect the Dots” and “Oslo in the Summertime,” of Montreal led the march into the land of mind warbling, catchy psych rock—adding just enough structure to woo the ears of first-time listeners, while satiating devoted fans of the group’s kaleidoscopic jams. That was almost a decade ago and, if the band’s recent releases mark the start of a trend, Kevin Barnes is on track to make of Montreal’s innovative but crowd-pleasing sound a distant memory.
If you're one of those who think that Kevin Barnes' recent output has been a descent into impenetrable self indulgence, resulting in incoherently scattershot records, then a collection of offcuts from a range of his creative incarnations over the last decade or so is likely turn you off before you've even heard it. And indeed, Daughter of Cloud is a real melting pot of wildly disparate of Montreal identities – thinly textured, jingly-jangly pre-Fauna sounding cuts like 'Kristansand', sitting alongside kooky electro-funk of Skeletal Lamping and False Priest at its most fiercely experimental, alongside material somewhere in the middle and some stuff which doesn't sit comfortably anywhere in the recent trajectory at all. The result is a collection which, by virtue of its inherently scrappy nature, exposes all of Barnes' recent records as the robust pieces that they were, in spite of their inability to keep still or to demonstrate one iota of creative restraint.
A compilation of unreleased songs and rarities culled from the past five years, Daughter of Cloud could be described as a record geared exclusively toward hardcore Of Montreal fans. Except every Of Montreal record lately seems geared toward a continually shrinking base of diehards. The Athens, Ga., band has sunk deeper into a rabbit hole of conceptually dense, erratic, and frankly exhausting music since the band's acknowledged peak, 2007's Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?.
Of Montreal can be depended upon for two things: Kevin Barnes' inimitable songwriting style and a prolific rate of new material. Putting out a new album almost every year since 1997, the product could only ever become increasingly boring or bizarre, and this new compilation of rarities emphasizes that Barnes sided with the latter. Many of the tracks, all recorded since 2007, echo the questionable cacophonic splurges of 2008's Skeletal Lamping through to this year's lacklustre Paralytic Stalks.
It might be hard to fully compute right now, but American sextet Of Montreal used to be pretty good (please see the theatrical future-pop of 2007’s ‘Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?’). Their latter years, however, have seen the band from Athens, Georgia become like Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy in comparison to The Mighty Boosh – self-consciously ‘quirky’ rather than naturally odd. Unfortunately, this rarities compilation focuses on OM’s 2008-until-now phase, and it grates heavily.
The people in dorm rooms, or study halls, or even sand boxes right now who have yet to discover the Athens, GA band of Montreal are in an enviable position in terms of the amount of recorded work that awaits their attention, the ease in which they are able to access it, and, well, the revelation that comes when one first enters Kevin Barnes’ kaleidoscopic universe, where laughter, sexuality, absurdity, isolation, and despair are virtually interchangeable, where conventions of genre and song structure are widely disregarded. They just shouldn’t start off with their new b-sides and rarities release, Daughter of Cloud. As with most odds and sods offerings, this is upper division of Montreal, best appreciated by the band’s core audience of teenage free spirits and aging indie rock lifers.
The original face of the Elephant 6 Recording Company, Neutral Milk Hotel, are about as far away from fellow collective members of Montreal as it’s possible to get. If the music of Jeff Mangum was a Mark Rothko - dark, beguiling - Kevin Barnes’ is a Jackson Pollock, exploding with colour and energy. Across the carefully composed rarities collection the loose-limbed group eagerly leap between psychedelic twee pop and gyrating Prince funk.