of Montreal, founded by Kevin Barnes, has gone through a bit of a transformation since their/his start in 1996. Beginning as a twee-pop group and cycling through members and sounds until Kevin Barnes' was left to muse his way toward experimental-glamour, of Montreal's newest project, Paralytic Stalks, is a much different approach to their previous style. Barnes' battle with masochism seems to have beat him on this project, but that doesn't mean the album is a complete failure. The sometimes angsty, depressive lyrics on albums like The Gay Parade and Skeletal Lamping are usually paired well with flamboyantly gleeful loops and funky chants. They're also brilliantly avant-garde, making it almost difficult for listeners to know what he's even saying (but that's okay). Paralytic Stalks seems to be an appropriate progression (or maybe the only the direction left to go after 10 albums) from False Priest where he explored his R&B side, collaborating with artists like Janelle Monae and Solange and adding an 80s sound to the mix. Previously successful musical fusions aside, Kevin Barnes may have implemented too many musical ideas on this project.
"It's f*cking sad / that we need a tragedy to occur / to gain a fresh perspective in our lives." "Spiteful Intervention," the second track on the new album hosts some of Barnes' most blatant lyrics. And because of Montreal's songs are baroque yet similar to one another, this song seems to be the most fundamentally different, which may draw loyal fans away and generate some negative reviews. But, in a time where music is being infused with all sorts of electronic sampling, it seems fitting that this new album follows that path yet breaks the mold in kooky Barnes-fashion. Songs like "Malefic Dowery," and "Dour Percentage," are probably the most similar to Barnes' previous work, and staying somewhat true to a winning formula is necessary even if it's imbued with different styles.
The only issue with this album is experimentation. How far does one go when deviating from a sound? "Winter Debts," is the chillest, most depressing tune on the album with lyrics like: "Can't survive another comedown day / when my spirit houses so much pain," but it's followed by two songs (over 20 minutes in length combined) filled with clashing, acid-trip (and not a good one) induced sounds and confessional lyrics about love: "I love how we're learning from each other...Till this afternoon I was a nomad." The album as a whole seems as confused as Barnes' emotional state. Rather than experimenting, Barnes'seems to have infiltrated all of his past sounds into one, nine track album. And even though of Montreal is known for approaching different sounds and genres masterfully, Paralytic Stalks is a bit of an overwrought effort.