If you’ve listened to any sort of indie or psychedelic, experimental rock in the past decade, you have more than certainly heard of Kevin Barnes’ infamously poppy and glamorous band, Of Montreal. More impressively the band has released a plethora of albums. With their latest, Aureate Gloom, we’re talking thirteen full length records. Across each release, Of Montreal and Barnes himself have definitely worked up a certain degree of prestige –they’re easily one of the most definitive bands in the scene. Of Montreal’s latest album clearly has some high expectations. Whether it can hold up to them or not is debatable.
Aureate Gloom is very unmistakably Of Montreal. At a glance, it’s awesome, the album has all the memorable, well-written lyrics that you would expect from Barnes, mixed in with the semi-psychedelic guitars (and other instruments) that have become a trademark of the band. Without dissection, the album is perfect. At the same time, Aureate Gloom is a far cry from Of Montreal’s past work. For example, the band’s eighth album, Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer? is almost painfully memorable. The entire first few tracks blend together amazingly well and burn their way into your mind. The bright and almost cheery musical lines paired conversely with the often rather grim lyrics just shined through. Something about the band’s delivery screamed masterpiece. Aureate Gloom follows suit to a degree, but somehow feels like a collection of rejected pieces. The album is just a complete sleeper. Sure, it’s nice to hear something from Of Montreal, but this is an experienced band. Kevin Barnes is a musician with many albums under his belt –what the hell went wrong?
Now, maybe it’s not fair to compare one of the best of Barnes against the latest. Aureate Gloom as a standalone album isn’t per say bad, but it’s hard to imagine the album has much to offer to non-obsessed fans. So the album doesn’t deserve to have a “Cherry Peel” written about it, that’s fine. Aureate Gloom definitely isn’t a complete waste of effort.
Of the most outstanding songs is the opening track, “Bassem Sabry.” The tune manages to keep that psychedelic-poppy tune and mix with just the right lyrics. Maybe nostalgia is really settling in on this track, but it feels like the Of Montreal we all know and love –with all the passion and musical magic that just makes the music perfect. If you find your way past the midpoint of the album, you’re rewarded with a track titled, “Apollyon Of Blue Room.” It’s not per say spectacular, but it stands out when compared to the rest of the album. The beginning of the song is a little rough around the edges, however the entire piece blends nicely. Barnes sounds as if he’s having a little more fun or at least seems more interested in this tune. Perhaps the lyrics are key, they just feel more personal; for instance as Kevin Barnes sings, “now I’m on my own, no violence on the telephone.” Unfortunately, few other tracks on the album are remotely as remarkable.
It seems like a lot could have done better with Aureate Gloom. The album isn’t bad –but Of Montreal could do better. The honest truth is that you probably don’t need to listen to this one. Perhaps some fan out there needs to hear Kevin Barnes going at it again, and that’s fine, and they’ll love it. For the rest of us –there’s always next time.