Of Montreal | Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Polyvinyl)

cd_ofmontrealThis record is undoubtedly Of Montreal's most cogent effort to date, and not coincidentally, contains some of Barnes' most personal songs.

 

 

 

 

 

If Athens-based psychedelic indie-pop sensationalists Of Montreal never make another record, their legacy will be well remembered with their latest offering, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? I try not to use the word masterpiece, but it is at the very least relevant when discussing the canon of Kevin Barnes and Co. This record is undoubtedly Of Montreal's most cogent effort to date, and not coincidentally, contains some of Barnes' most personal songs.

There are myriad words that can and have been used to describe the style of the enigmatic, revolving quintet, and all are present in some form on Hissing Fauna. Beginning with the undeniable presence of infectious pop, Of Montreal bump and weave through episodes of funk, soul, afrobeat, experimentation, warped disco, and a number of other synthetic concoctions. Although the band's trademark sound and evolution has come at the expense of familiarity, Barnes finally compensates by ditching characters and ambiguities for soul-searching honesty and autobiographical accounts of heartbreak and anxiety. However, the sunny irony of the band's music remains, resulting in boundless layered breadth, as well as a mind-altering dichotomy, pitting personal doubt against artistic optimism.

Danceable throughout, yet ceaselessly introspective, Hissing Fauna bursts open with the fun, chopping beat of "Suffer for Fashion," in which Barnes exclaims, "We've gotta keep our little click clicking at 130 bpm, it's not too slow/ If we gotta burn out, let's do it together." This immediately introduces the repeated theme of grinding buoyancy in the face of a jaded confidence. However, Barnes discovers strength in spite of the struggles of chemical imbalance on "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse" (that's right, the long titles are still there), in which he begs, "I need help/ C'mon mood shift, shift back to good again/ C'mon be a friend."

The album peaks at its midpoint with the trademark Of Montreal bass bouncing the intro to "A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger," blending a joyous mixture of synthesized strings and echoing keys that evoke a sort of Shins/Go! Team-hybrid. The chorus, as Bob Balaban would say, is the sort of infectious that is good to spread around, and its positive deception will definitely promote car-singing, despite the guarantee that hipsters will refuse it as their favorite song on the album. Following is the epic strains of "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal," a palette cleanser that exhausts emotion, setting up the disturbed joy and playful wit of second-half highlights, "Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider" and "We Were Born the Mutants Again With Leafling," the latter being a cultivator of pure bliss.

Of Montreal has hit its stride with Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, and you would be hard-pressed to find a more intriguing band on today's indie scene, particularly when considering the powers of colliding tones with already conflicted lyrics. If anything, these qualities may eventually be their undoing, but it will be a shame if their 2007 release is not considered for next year's best of lists. If that is the case, maybe it'll mean an awesome year for music. Here's hoping. A | Dave Jasmon

RIYL: The Shins, Olivia Tremor Control, Apples in Stereo

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