Album Review: Of Montreal – Lousy with Sylvianbriar

Of Montreal’s always been a little like our lovable and decidedly quirky younger brother, but their latest release Lousy with Sylvianbriar shows a large jump toward more standard rock rather than another foray into the psychedelic pop world. Sylvianbriar is a modern twist on an old sound, resembling The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper but with the advanced modern edge of Of Montreal. It’s more accessible and understandable than their previous work of the past few years, which can often feel hectic. Sylvianbriar goes down much smoother.

Produced by the band’s frontman Kevin Barnes, Lousy with Sylvianbriar is Of Montreal’s twelfth studio album. Barnes announced the album’s completion on the band’s Facebook in April, noting that he wrote “most of the songs while on a self-imposed isolation experiment in San Francisco.” He cites Sylvia Plath’s poetry as a major influence, thus the nod to her name in the title.

Standouts on the album include the single and album opener “Fugitive Air,” sounding at points like Paul Simon stumbled into a Grateful Dead concert. It’s a tightly composed and executed track, ditching the well-known looser conventions of Of Montreal and setting the tone for the rest of the album perfectly. We hear hints of these past sounds again on “Belle Glade Missionaries” and “Hegira Émigré,” which retain the same classic rock, Rolling Stones-eseuqe tightness. The album consistently maintains this old-school filter without feeling like artifice. As a whole, the album is consistent in its tone and vision, making it a fun modern trip into the past.

Of Montreal are undeniably masters of the pop/indie/psychedelic scene that cropped up in the 90s and fans may be surprised by the comparative maturity of this album. After the success of their 2007 Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? Of Montreal made a more definitive mark in the music world, but with Sylvianbriar, the catchiness and bounciness has been tamed to an old sound in a new age. It’s clear that Of Montreal has always known what they’re doing, but with Sylvianbriar we see they’ve done their homework and have a frighteningly comprehensive understanding of music and music history.

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  1. Pingback: Album Review: Foster the People – Supermodel - Rock On Philly

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