Of Montreal – Lousy With Sylvianbriar

written by: October 3, 2013
Album-art-for-Lousy-With-Sylvianbriar-by-Of-Montreal Release Date: October 8, 2013


Of Montreal usually sounds like a schizophrenic acid trip through a friendly, magical forest. On its new album, Lousy With Sylvianbriar, the group stays quirky but with a funkier, rock-n-roll sound.

Of Montreal is from Athens, Ga. and has been around since the mid ‘90s. Frontman Kevin Barnes has kept the quirk alive after 12 studio releases.

This release sounds a bit more stripped down than previous albums, such as Sunlandic Twins or Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? On Lousy With Sylvianbriar there are fewer beats, synths, and wacky noises. It maintains the essence of Of Montreal, but with a slightly more chilled out sound.

There are also more recognizable instruments on this album; there is actually an electric guitar leading a melody (what?!). The group isn’t suddenly conventional, though; it is simply less avant garde.

Throughout, Of Montreal sounds like a grittier rock band with bluesy influences. The album is guitar and drum heavy.

Barnes’ creative license is still present in the lyrics. It used to be that sonically and lyrically, Of Montreal was simply an explosion of danceable ridiculousness, but now the lyrics shine through the simpler sounds in all their weirdness. On “Belle Glade Missionaries,” Barnes opens the track with, “Belle Glade missionaries are here to steal your cocaine/You better send your malaria to puncture their brains/And send them back to where they came from.”

Of Montreal has always used fictional scenarios or narratives in its lyrical structure; it’s a large part of the band’s style and performance. Most of the tracks on Lousy With Sylvianbriar are a small bizarre work of fiction. Each track follows this songwriting path, with structures that are more traditional, but the content is atypical compared to Of Montreal’s historical fun house interpretation of pop music.

The track “Triumph of Disintegration” is the most similar to Of Montreal’s previous work. A funky beat, choral harmonies, and several tempo and melody changes are all present, but this track still feels different than the usual infinitely faceted, heavily produced style.  It opens with only a shaker as Barnes sings, “The last 10 days have been a motherfucker,” before the beat kicks in.

The album takes an acoustic turn on “Sirens of Your Toxic Spirit” and “Amphibian Days;” both are slower, not as overwhelming and explosive. Barnes has produced tracks with this mellow vibe before, but nothing with such a heavy folk influence.

Of Montreal left some of the synths behind on this album; it sounds more like rock-n-roll. “Hegira Émigré” is a folk-rock track with a strong electric guitar. There also are bluegrass-infused moments on the album, while “Fugitive Air” and “She Ain’t Speakin’ Now” have distinct garage rock guitar.

This album is a definite turning point. Of Montreal has significantly calmed down in comparison to its high-energy pop music on steroids.

Even though this is sonically quite different from other Of Montreal releases, it is a cohesive album with interesting song structures and intriguing lyrics. The downside to Lousy With Sylvianbriar is that it lacks some of the quirkiness and hyperbolic sonic explosions that fans have come to expect.

Of Montreal – Lousy With Sylvianbriar tracklist:

  1. “Fugitive Air”
  2. “Obsidian Currents”
  3. “Belle Glade Missionaries”
  4. “Sirens of Your Toxic Spirit”
  5. “Colossus”
  6. “Triumph of Disintegration”
  7. “Amphibian Days”
  8. “She Ain’t Speakin’ Now”
  9. “Hegira Émigré”
  10. “Raindrop in My Skull”
  11. “Imbecile Rages”