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of Montreal have been in existence for over a decade and a half. Along the line, in a career spanning this amount of time, songs are bound to be dropped from records to allow others a spot on the release. Sure, these missing tracks often become leaked in rare form, but a lot simply never see the light of day. The Georgia collective have done what most bands do, they’ve released these “rarities” in the form of Daughter of Cloud.
Now, I will NOT call Daughter of Cloud a compilation album. Compilation implies the band is reaching for a meaning to remain relevant while their busy trying to scrap the inside of their creativity to compose the next piece of audible band-aid to spin tirelessly in your chosen medium. of Montreal doesn’t need to patch a void in your audible addiction. If you’ve experienced them, they probably had a hand in your addiction. Instead, they brilliantly craft this bible of musical exploration.
If you don’t know yet, of Montreal, in the most superficial form, is like Thom Yorke saying what we’re all thinking with Ziggy Stardust at the helm and John Lennon in his deepest drug days adding production input. Or, simply put, a refreshingly intellectual dynamic sliced, diced and packed into a psychedelic battering ram of musical expertise.
Daughter of Cloud is a seventeen track addition to an already established discography. The record incorporates tracks from Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Polyvinyl records 2007) through today. Ten of the seventeen songs are unreleased; in any form, limited print/edition or 7”. If you’ve never experienced of Montreal, Daughter of Cloud is a great starting point. It will command your mind while you become immersed in the musically transcending style. If you venture down the rabbit hole with this album, specifically with headphones on, you will be completely unable to read, write, or even think of anything other than what you are hearing at that exact moment. Each track carries the weight of honest musicianship. “Sails, Hermaphroditic” incorporates funky drives with humorously cynical lyrics “If I could Dr. Frankenstien the world/start this bitch anew/I would change the sh*t out of you.” “Jan Doesn’t Like It” will leave you diving for the mute button (you’ll see what I mean) if you play it out loud, “Feminine Effects” touches on a slightly country ballad track, while “Expecting to Fly” drifts and sways on minimalism. These are just a few of the standout pieces that compile the album.
There isn’t nearly enough time here to go into each and every crevice of Daughter of Cloud. But if you are willing, god I hope you are, leave your brain at the door, dive head first into this masterfully precise Polyvinyl release and become hypnotized in of Montreal. It will challenge your mind, it will audibly paint a sometimes disturbing, often beautiful painting and most of all it will get its hooks in you and leave you wanting even more. With depths like this in an album built from record rejects, I don’t believe of Montreal can make bad music.
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I must admit, I have never been a huge fan of B-side releases. This goes against the collective will of the die-hard music fan, but for the most part I feel that if they were that good, they would have made the cut. I know there are exceptions to the rule, most notable the tracks that did not make it onto Pearl Jam’s “Ten.” But for every “Yellow Ledbetter,” there is a “Dirty Frank.”
Of Montreal has joined the B-side party with the release of Daughter of Cloud, out October 23rd on Polyvinyl Records. Included are the cutting-room tracks from the last five years, which offer a condensed view of Kevin Barnes’ personal journey over the last half-decade. It is filled with hedonism, mental anguish and torture, just what we would expect from an of Montreal record.
For a collection, Daughter of Cloud has an incredible flow to it. “Obviousatonicnuncio” shifts into “Salis, Hermaphroditic” with sharper transitions than a Now That’s What I Call Music! CD. The only song that sticks out like an object saturated with color in a black and white photo is “Feminine Effects,” sung by Rebecca Cash, and acts as a beautiful ballad sorbet before the next toe-tap into paranoia. Barnes’ electronic funk is as sick and face-scrunching as ever, proving there are some people out there that just get what addictive music is supposed to sound like.
The critiques have not, or should not, ever be about the music of of Montreal; it is always about the narrative. This year’s Paralytic Stalks is a clinic in how musicians can use love, or its absence, to go to a dark place. Daughter of Cloud features some dimly-lit rabbit holes, but most notably, a recurring theme is Kevin Barnes’ boy parts. It features so heavily in some songs that I started to hope he was at least using it as a metaphor. I like to imagine that Barnes uses his “erection” to explain the stock market crash of 1929 and the upstart of Hoovervilles across America, or as a protest against the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan. It may be wildly inaccurate and not what they were going for, but it helps me sleep better, while at the same time justifying my liberal arts degree.
The subject matter of Daughter of Cloud feels a lot like what happens when nobody tells a band “no.” It’s like when Dewey Cox wants to record the most epic song ever and everyone just goes along with him. No matter how great some of the parts are, you are left with an insanely disparate product. The first half is great; I start out the album with a lot of the head-bobbing vigor that accompanies listening to of Montreal, but halfway through, the tail spin starts. By three-quarters of the way through, I feel like I am checking the track number to see when I can switch to the next thing.
If this your first jump into of Montreal, welcome aboard, it is a hell of a ride. I recommend going back and listening to their previous album. If you enjoy Daughter of Cloud, I can all but guarantee that the rest of the library, going backwards, will make your day.