Kool Keith’s “Feature Magnetic” is trying to punctuate a prolific and unique rapping career. The problem is that it sounds 20 years out of fashion.
Among one of the acts to emerge from the second wave of bands from the Elephant 6 collective, Of Montreal is the brainchild of singer and guitarist Kevin Barnes. Barnes was influenced to form the rapturous indie pop group following the broken romance he had with a woman from Montreal. Their debut album, Cherry Peel, came out in 1997 and from the very start, the band has fashioned its dazzling and flamboyant indie pop rock sound, intertwined with elements of psychedelia and sensuality. Now nearly 20 years later and with a steady collection of albums under its belt, the band is back with this, its 18th studio album, Innocence Reaches (Polyvinyl Records) out Aug. 12.
Of Montreal is a band that’s never steered away from evolution in their sound; over their career they have combined whip-smart lyrics and seemingly dark tropes into vigorous rocks songs, which more resembled the escapist, introspective, feeling-blue style of their Elephant 6 family with bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and The Apples in Stereo. However, more recently and shown most with this latest album, the band has embraced a dance-pop sound that differentiates them as more earnest and vehement.
Innocence Reaches is an album as eclectic as its creators, showcasing indie pop, EDM and contemporary electronica. The album begins with the track “Let’s Relate,” which exhibits a mix of synth-pop and modulated rave with a layer of mechanized cooing from Barnes that hauntingly starts with line, “How do you identify?” It’s a question that opens a theme over the rest of album which explores outdated ideas about gender and attraction. Following the question is the chorus, Barnes caws a repeated “let’s relate/let’s relate” over the kaleidoscopic swirls of sounds.
The second track doesn’t veer too far way from this theme. “It’s Different For Girls” is a four-minute dance ballad that explores the feminine dilemma. The track combines LCD Soundsystem’s wit with Daft Punk’s ability to get rock kids dancing. “It’s Different for Girls” is tied to the cover art, which Barnes explained in a press release is meant to convey “wonderment for the female anatomy.” In that same statement, he discusses how important “trans issues” and performative “gender-bending” are to him as an artist.
The rest of the album goes on to explore darker moments of isolation, anger, indifference and a feeling of looming madness. All of these are then dealt with by the ability to take the vulnerability, transparency and chaos of life and turn them into the common ground of being human. In turn, the record realizes that these hardships and uncertainties are what makes life weird, bright, and like this album, inventive and exciting.»
– Samantha Lopez