There are not many bands that can deliver the extremities of Montreal embody. Attend one of their shows, and witness what is the fruition of vaudeville, the surreal, the pop and freak out personas accumulating into one big mess. I don’t know of any other bands who can write a song about chemical depression as catchy as lead singer and the sole songwriter, Kevin Barnes can.
Known in particular for 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, the “band” has always essentially been Barnes’ creative pursuit. He employed the use of other members on albums prior to 2004, but then began to embark on recording mainly by himself until 2013 with the release of lousy with sylvianbriar, and the introduction of an entirely new band. All the old touring members, some who had been working with Barnes since his first recordings, went their own ways.
These sorts of decisions are just one of the trends in of Montreal’s history, which is one littered with some dark corners. Through each of these seemingly egotistical or aggressive actions on Barnes’ part, it is always treated as a way for himself to be able to create. With every new album comes a similar press release calling their freshest collection to be the darkest new take. This trend is pretty true; Aureate Gloom may be the darkest album they’ve made.
Barnes’ songwriting is one of the most exquisite, drawing from all sources of obscure history and surreal fiction but most importantly, his own diaries. Aureate Gloom was conceived in the midst of a separation from his wife of eleven years, what may seem like a conclusion of sorts to Hissing Fauna, the first album to open the autobiographical spring of a troubled marriage.
The album’s opener and first single, “Bassem Sabry”, is the only song which isn’t autobiographical; it is based on the Egyptian journalist who passed away last summer under some shady circumstances. The style of this song also is what of Montreal fans be more familiar with; the funky, upbeat and blue eyed soul reminiscent of David Bowie. However, this album delivers tinges of punk thereafter; take the second half of “Empyrean Abattoir”, where lyrics about a “system of subtraction” are nudged with sneering “oh-oh oh-oh’s” snarled out in raspy sass.
There are also inspirations of no-wave droning, which come out well in “Aluminum Crown” in the spacey exploration of the “I’ve been hurt by troubled dreams” and enveloping atmosphere, but does act as an annoyance to “Monolithic Egress”. “Monolithic Egress” opens as a very catchy and angry track, where Barnes sings how “our words are so much louder now / that we almost never speak” and says “you never did anything wrong / we’ve just been together too long, babe”. Yet half way through this great song draws into a droning implosion.
The particular disappointment of the album is this freak-out outro which drags too long and the final song, “Like Ashoka’s Inferno of Memory”. In what has been an epic monologue about separation, in “Ashoka” it feels as though it doesn’t end, and the climatic conclusion is nonexistent. Where it opens with some of the vilest and most direct lyrics of spite ever written by Barnes or any songwriter about their relationship’s souring (“I realize then if I could know something alive in you / Something I could love, I think must I be dead”), it pitters out and leaves a bad taste in the mouth, but all the more wishing there to be more.
And the wish for more is already coming true, even before Aureate Gloom is released: work is already being done on the next new album, which doesn’t currently have a name but is rumored to be released in early 2016.
of Montreal captures the collapse of Barnes’s marriage with all the destruction and violence filtered through their signature sing-along style. Where 2013’s lousy with sylvianbriar featured shadows of country rock music, Aureate Gloom shows another step in the evolution of one of most prolific songwriters into a new stage: dabbling in punk music.
Although it does feel like there should be some more music at the end, this is easily one of the best albums of 2015 and establishes a high rank in of Montreal’s cannon.
Anthony Campbell // Staff Writer