2012's Paralytic Stalks
proved to be a controversial entry in the canon of Elephant 6 related band of Montreal
. Though frontman Kevin Barnes is known for his dense and subversive lyricism, Paralytic Stalks
took an already outre band to new levels of inaccessibility and considering the love heaped on 2007's Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer
, it was a disappointing chapter in the Athens, GA, band's history. And while their newest record, Lousy with Sylvanbriar
, doesn't abandon some of of Montreal's more overt pretentious leanings, it is also an exceptional return to form for the band and an album rooted in the best traditions of 1960s psych rock and 1970s proto-hard rock.
Letting go of the glam rock/synth-pop trappings of some of their most recent records, Lousy with Sylvanbriar
finds of Montreal re-discovering the acid-soaked pop of their formative years while also striking off into the ragged, jangly guitars that would have been right at home on an Elvis Costello record. Like last year's Fear Fun
from Father John Misty, the album celebrates the simple instrumentation of alt-country and early Southern rock in the CSNY vein while also injecting enough clear psychedelic influences into the proceeding to ensure this album's rotation in every hipster acid head's regular regimen for at least the next couple months.
Though, if one wanted to lodge a complaint against the record, it would be nearly identical to the record's greatest strength. Lousy with Sylvanbriar
draws its sound from an almost outrageous number of sources: the Band, Neil Young, David Bowie, the Beatles, the Stones, Bowie, Costello, and I could go on for a while. And, it leads to a disjointed feel to the record. Each individual song is fantastic fun in its own right with dynamic composition and enough subtle musical callbacks to send every classic rock lover into a frenzy trying to name that particular instrumental reference. But, taken as a whole, it's hard to get a feel on what holds the album together, and with a lack of any stand-out singles, Lousy with Sylvanbriar
is great when you're listening to it but when it ends, you have trouble recalling any individual element of it.
And that sense of disconnect is what keeps the album from reaching the same plateau of a similarly adventurous record from last year, Grizzly Bear's Shields
. But that shouldn't discourage you from checking this album out. Though there isn't a clear "hit" on the album, "Belle Glade Missionaries" propels itself forward on a rollicking George Harrison-esque guitar riff and a spacey pick-up halfway through the track that blasts the song off towards the unknown. "Hegira Emigre" fuses Dylan and proto-punk for one of the best tracks of the album, and for each individual track, you could talk about how Barnes's sense of humor (at one point he makes jokes about posting naked GIFs of epileptic fits) or his ear for instrumentation makes for a great tune. I only wish there was a grand theme tying the whole album together.
Lousy with Sylvanbriar
is out tomorrow on Polyvinyl. Get your copy here