The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Nature's Selection

By Joe Rand

If you are anything like me, you probably thought you were sick of hearing about other peoples’ relationship turmoil. Albums about breakups likely take up sizeable tracts of real estate on your shelves, and each had their place in your heart at one point or another. Then at some point maybe you grew weary of the angsty moping by so many artists all expressing basically the same thing while crying into their acoustic guitars. But, again, if you are anything like me, you may have recently heard an album that turned that whole paradigm upside down for you and left you dance-weary, uncomfortable, laughing, confused, and wanting more.In their eighth album since 1997, Athens, Ga.’s Of Montreal shocked and surprised listeners by completely redefining themselves and their music. But perhaps by this point we should not be so surprised, as the band has been successfully redefining itself every time they put out another lovable release. Their latest album, “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” (Polyvinyl) took the band away from escapist fantasies and wonderful creations of oddball characters and wacky mysteries into the dark realm of a first-person, post-breakup manic-depression wrapped up in insanely catchy melodies, varied song structures, gut-droppingly funky bass lines, and irresistible dance beats.

The mastermind behind Of Montreal, Kevin Barnes, recorded about 90 percent of the album himself. Barnes has demonstrated his ability to produce stunning albums and revolutionary songs with practically no budget. His early “four-track recordings” is an album full of gems and creative pop experimentalism, followed by several more lo-fi masterpieces, all released by the Kindercore label. In the past few years, however, Polyvinyl records has poured money into Barnes’ projects, opening up a new realm of creative expression and hi-fi production for the previously exclusively lo-fi indie genius. Of Montreal has thus undergone a metamorphosis, now creating dancey glam albums, while still retaining the dichotomy of super-fun giddiness and mysterious darkness that always made the band so intriguing. Despite changes in sound, Of Montreal has never departed from their roots with the Athens-based Elephant 6 collective, staying committed to experimentalism, catchy pop melodies, and ’70s-era psychedelica.

The change in writing style from the imaginative stories of previous records to the autobiographical outpouring of emotion from Barnes himself could mistakenly be seen as a sign of an over-budgeted, under-stimulated artist slowly burning out. But instead, Barnes shows listeners that he can be just as original and insightful when he delves into his own human psyche and twisted brain as he always was when inventing adventures and human dramas of other characters. Barnes has produced an album that pushes his listeners into an uncomfortable intimacy with himself. By the end of the album, we know way too much. We’ve seen inside his head and been exposed to his demons-the pain that has pushed him to the edge this past year as he faced a separation with his wife. And here’s the weird part: we’ve had way too much fun in the process. Barnes’ outpouring climaxes in the 12-minute ultra-dark opus, “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” with its excessive use of the first person, Barnes falls into absolute madness over a robotically funky rhythm section.

An instant favorite of the album, “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse” explodes with synth-pop perfection and the catchy hooks we’ve come to expect from of Montreal. The listener is almost distracted enough by the upbeat cheerfulness of this tune to ignore Barnes’ cries for chemicals to alter his mood. Similarly, the bubble-gum funky-fun of “A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger” can easily hide the deep depression buried in Barnes’ heavily harmonized lyrics.

In the latter half of the album, only after Barnes lets it all out in “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” the songs turns notably more sexual, as if this is some way of escaping the depression. When, in “Faberge Falls for Shuggie,” Barnes says “Be careful how you touch me, my body is an earthquake ready to receive you.let’s be like strangers touching for the first time,” the listener may be reminded of a favorite track off the band’s 2001 release, “Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies,” when Barnes swoons, “Will you kiss me again, so that I can pretend, we’re kissing for the first time. Let’s do everything for the first time together.” Apparently, Barnes has lost some of his youthful innocence and has chosen the more overtly sexual route for his latest opus.

Somehow, this synthesis of darkness, manic-depression, and cryptic sexuality comes packaged perfectly with upbeat synth-dance production on Of Montreal’s latest album. “Hissing Fauna” is packed with creative, new, experimental, and familiar sounds, all tied together with lilting, super-funky bass lines and electronic beats manufactured to get you to move. The album was certainly unexpected, but by no means does it disappoint. Long-time Of Montreal listeners will do as they’ve done with previous Of Montreal releases: put the album on repeat, soak it in with astonishment, and wonder with delight how they never seem to get sick of it. First-time Of Montreal listeners will likely find themselves doing the same thing.

Joe Rand ’07 is the drummer for the Minneapolis-based band, Best Friends Forever. Their next local show is April 17, at the Belfry Center, Minneapolis.

View Comments (3)
More to Discover

Comments (3)

All The Mac Weekly Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • J

    Jason SkinnerSep 10, 2019 at 5:21 am

    I am eager of learning Flash, is there any paragraph associated to Flash, if okay, then please post it, thanks.

  • C

    Christopher WalshSep 5, 2019 at 2:39 am

    Thanks for the tips you are giving on this weblog. Another thing I would like to say is always that getting hold of copies of your credit profile in order to check accuracy of each and every detail may be the first step you have to carry out in credit score improvement. You are looking to clear your credit file from dangerous details problems that damage your credit score.