CD review: of Montreal, False Priest (with video)

Barnes crafted it in typical fashion alone in his Athens, Ga.-based home studio, bringing an album that was essentially finished to the legendary Ocean Way Studios in LA to give it the “official” studio treatment with producer Jon Brion (Kanye West, Fiona Apple).

Brion showed Barnes how to expand his audio spectrum, improve his audio quality, and boost his low end frequencies. He also convinced the musician to add live instrumentation to the album, with Barnes and Brion ultimately re-tracking the guitars and basses, and fleshing out the songs with pianos, analog synthesizers, live drums layered over the programmed ones, and even string arrangements. All give False Priest a warmer, richer and fuller sound than previous albums.

[image-1]An effervescent ode of gushing gratitude, “I Feel Ya’ Strutter” sets the tone, but things really take off with the second track, “Our Riotous Defects,” a lively dance club jam with jangly guitar and hilarious spoken word segments that find Barnes reflecting on a crazy girl, their relationship “like Ike and Tina but in reverse.” Sci-funk songstress Janelle Monáe makes the first of two appearances here, adding supplemental vocal gorgeousness to the song’s gracefully glitchy electronic lift-off. She returns for "Enemy Gene," the sort of track only K. Barnes could write, his commentary on the primitive tendencies that keep humanity from evolving framed within a luscious discofied duet. The song’s stealthy opening groove segues into a sparkling refrain, Monáe’s silky croon delivering a hook about particle wave duality – the central concept of quantum mechanics – that is as lovely as it is absurd.

"Like a Tourist" bursts in with a relentlessly driving beat followed by the equally danceable “Sex Karma,” which has second guest vocalist Solange Knowles (sister to Beyonce) bringing R&B influence and a little sassy soul into the mix.

The latter half of the album returns to the roiling mood-shifting propulsion of 2008’s Skeletal Lamping – “Girl Name Hello” offers sharp-witted self-reproach (“If I treated someone else, like the way I treat myself, I’d be in jail”), “Casualty of You” slows things down to a moaning crawl, and the nearly seven-minute closer, “Do You Mutilate,” jumps all over the place, starting fun and frivolous before dissolving into freaky funkadelia, Barnes’ wild vocals cackling, screaming, singing gibberish, then stringing together a measured flow of out-there rhymes in a blasé robotics-effected tone, then changing the pace and mood yet again with a section of pretty retro glam pop that eventually reverts back to robo bizzaroland, ending False Priest on an overall weird but satisfying note. (Out Sept. 14 on Polyvinyl Records)


Check out the video for "Coquet Coquette" below.

Kevin Barnes is a lyrical savant who’s capable of weaving together seemingly disparate topics into a colorful narrative of thoughts and feelings and ideas and observations he expels in streams of inspired brilliance too clever and literary and pop art appealing for their own good.

He makes you laugh, he makes you think, he makes you stop what you’re doing and wonder what the fuck is going on and how the fuck it got to this point? And suddenly, you’re singing along to all the outrageous hooks and Facebooking classic confuse-your-friends phrases like “You fetishize the archetype” and “Who’s your reggae woman now, do you even know?” because his wailing multi-tracked falsetto has rooted itself into your gray matter so deeply that all you can do is regurgitate, then re-listen like some sort of sonic drug addict who just can’t get enough since you’re constantly discovering a new aural high to absorb.

Barnes has shifted sonic gears for of Montreal’s 10th and latest, False Priest. While it’s still packed with unexpected juxtapositions, mind-blowing sonics and smart lyricism, the glam rock and psyche pop influences now add shimmer to the album’s fully-realized funk and R&B strut.

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