Posted on March 3rd, 2015 (12:00 pm) by Aaron Tremper

Of Montreal, the brainchild of frontman, Kevin Barnes, launched their eighteen year career with their 1997 debut, Cherry Peel, a lo-fi set including mostly Beatles-esque, acoustic, folk ballads penned by Barnes himself. Of Montreal has swapped sounds as often as band members over the years, with experiments in everything from the disco-funk of the Top 40 charting False Priests to the psychedelic pop concept album, The Gay Parade. This week's release, Aureate Gloom, reinforces all these previous reincarnations while continuing the band’s affection towards psychedelic cover art (designed by Barnes’ brother, David).

However, the cover, proves to be a misleading image for the seemingly low-key psych elements found on the Aureate Gloom. If Father John Misty is the king of 2015 indie psychedelia, Of Montreal bounces around as the court jester. The opener, “Bassem Sabry,” finds Barnes crying out, ”I just watched my hero fail / now I’m in a dark and violent funk,” while the combative “Last Rites at The Jane Hotel” has all the stylings and attitude of glam rock a la T.Rex and Gary Glitter. This is exactly what we find on most of the album: an aggressive, emotional Barnes who strives to combat the “cellophane punks” with his best angsty Bowie impressions.

At this point, Barnes is a veteran who not only established a lengthy catalog of his own, but also helmed production on a shelved Solange project and a few Janelle Monae tracks. The overall sound of the album is a genuinely planned project, encompassing a much larger set of clever arrangements than the makeshift recordings of Cherry Peels. Nevertheless, it seems that Barnes himself sounds the same as he did 13 albums ago, reverting to the thin whine of many a college town gig frontman (listeners will probably find it hard to believe that Barnes is encroaching on his 41st birthday). The most complex vocal parts, the harmonies, are pleasing, yet subtle, suggesting a stagnant Barnes still more willing to focus on varieties in genre rather than vocal technique.

It is this variety in genre, however, that makes Aureate Gloom a worthwhile listen. The trippy, string-laden epilogue, "Like Ashoka's Inferno Of Memory," touches upon jangy psych-pop, dance-rock stomps, and fingerpicking, all in one track. Meanwhile, the layered textures of “Monolithic Egress” and “Virgilian Lots” prove to be wonderful contributions to each track's respective themes of confusion and confinement.

While Aureate Gloom contains many head-bobbing appeals to retro glam, it ultimately finds Barnes prancing around the throne of Father John Misty, whose versatile voice, command of genre, and lyrical precision all prevent Of Montreal from overthrowing this year’s reigning King of Indie Psychedelia.

Track List:

  1. Bassem Sabry
  2. Last Rites At The Jane Hotel
  3. Empyrean Abattoir
  4. Aluminum Crown
  5. Virgillian Lots
  6. Monolithic Egress
  7. Apollyon Of Blue Room
  8. Estocadas
  9. Chthonian Dirge For Uruk The Other
  10. Like Ashoka's Inferno of Memory
Of Montreal - Aureate Gloom Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

67 / 100
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