Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Album Review: "Aureate Gloom" by of Montreal


Of Montreal have finally come up with an album title that perfectly describes the group and their music. The title, Aureate Gloom could almost be a new name for the genre of glam funk with sad lyrics that the band have become known for. And, of course, this album totally fits the bill.

Aureate Gloom picks up where Lousy With Sylvianbriar left off, if we can assume that the latter was created with 1969 in mind and now of Montreal are ready to delve into the early seventies. It's also an obvious successor if we can assume that the mild depression of Sylvianbriar transformed into the complete emotional turmoil of Auriate Gloom.

"Bassem Sabry," named for an Egyptian civil rights activist, is described as the only non-autobiographical song on the album, although it features Kevin Barnes' usual eloquence and the line "I just watched my hero fail//now I'm in a dark and violent funk." Incidentally, the word "funk" also describes some of the sounds on the track, along with drums playing a starring role in the beginning.

Next up, "Last Rites at the Jane Hotel" paints a dark portrait of a couple (or former couple) plagued with infidelity and self-interest. The busy sound is a distant cousin of "Belle Glade Missionaries." "Empyrean Abattoir" is a much more simplistic, yet discoteche-worthy tune with a great deal of bitterness wrapped up in it. It has been suggested that "Empyrean Abattoir" is about Rebecca Cash leaving the band, which seems entirely possible, although it's also as great a break-up song as "Last Rites," even if they represent slightly different outlooks. It's worth noting that many of the tracks on this album deal with bitter separations, perhaps courtesy of the fact that Barnes has parted ways with many band members including not only miss Cash, but longer-standing members of the band, and his wife of eleven years, all fairly recently.

Barnes writes about his separation from his wife on "Virgilian Lots," a dark track with personal and self-searching lyrics. Although most of the sixties sounds from early albums and Sylvianbriar are gone, and it's probably been a while since anyone compared the band to The Kinks, "Apollyon Of Blue Room" definitely brings to mind "You Really Got Me" in places.

One of my favorite pieces of lyricism on the album comes from "Estocadas"; "Your shifty friend gave you a cactus for a gift[...]//Such a stupid offering what's it meant to symbolize//hostile immobility, is that something to prize?"

"Like Ashoka's Inferno Of Memory" is home of a strange, new influence for the band in the form of a sound very similar to Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song."  The concept of separation from his wife in "Virgilian Lots" returns for "Memory," poignantly when Barnes references the poem "Having a Coke With You," an ode to how great boring things are with the one you love, as a memory.

Aureate Gloom is very much an of Montreal record. If Sylvianbriar can be removed from the equation, it's definitely the best album since Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? It's a different direction from Sylvianbriar. Of Montreal albums can certainly be perceived as moods, so it's almost like another mood. Barnes continues to write personal and thoughtful lyrics ripe with cultural references and complex eloquence. While I can't say it's the band's best work, it's definitely worth a listen. 

of Montreal is the brain child of Kevin Barnes of Atlanta, Georgia.

Aureate Gloom can be purchased here