decade aquarium drunkard

What is it that makes us want to deconstruct art by units of time? Lists. We love making them. We love arguing over them. And here, on the verge of a new decade, we’re in a position to do the same again. What were the best albums of the past ten years?

Here at AD, we started talking it through and decided we weren’t going to add to the cacophony of lists being put out by various music pubs. There are enough of those. Rather, we elected to let our four main writers have a chance to write about any and all of the albums they felt shaped the last decade.

From the beginning of October through the end of December, Monday through Thursday, AD will feature a post, or posts, from a particular writer detailing their favorite albums of the decade. On a given week there might be one album a writer talks about, there might be six, but they’ll get a chance to have their say on everything that comes to mind. Our hope for you, the reader, is that you’ll jump in with your comments on the album selections – tell us why you agree or disagree – and also be exposed to some albums that you may have missed over the last ten years. Now, as the decade starts to wind down, let’s celebrate.
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sunlandicTo see Of Montreal perform live is to see an androgynous bacchanal, a crazed Vaudevillian effort of Clockwork Orange proportions. At various shows, in various years, you’d witness frontman Kevin Barnes on stilts in a full latex suffocation, sword-fights with a black-clad spandex warrior, a tiger-headed chimera and, at least once, a (real) white horse onstage, Barnes astride. Face eyeliner glitters nearly as brightly as the music, with Barnes almost always sporting fishnet and/or thong and/or platform heels and/or shirtless. The crowd is a bizarre melting pot of swooning early teenage girls, twentysomething music scenesters and a group of no discernible clique or style; what you might call “normal.” (If normal even exists, and it usually doesn’t, particularly not at an Of Montreal show.)

Setting the stage, as it were, for their live show is important when describing 2005’s The Sunlandic Twins, as you almost need a physical frame of reference to explain what’s going on in the record. That’s not to say Sunlandic has a single mention of chimeras or latex, but it does create a world that can only be constructed by the minds of Of Montreal, which is to say that of Kevin Barnes. A world that in any other setting, by any other presenter, might turn off the normal, might frighten the young girl, might overwhelm the scenester.

“And so begins, begins our odyssey,” Barnes proclaims. “Let’s have bizarre celebrations,” he invites. Now that he’s let you know where his head’s at, you might understand that when he reminds a woman that, “We made love like a pair of black wizards,” he probably really means it.

For all the spectacle and bizarre imagery, though, the album isn’t just for eye-popping show. The lyrics, while sometimes abstruse, aren’t intended necessarily to be silly forays into nonsense. They typically mean something (even if the song titles don’t), in a way only Barnes can describe. It’s a form of expression that’s entirely original, and even more remarkable in its accessibility. It’s not an exclusive experience that you have to “get” to enjoy, but it is an experience, and one full of sensory lavishness. The music is extravagantly diverse, and one of the only things that makes sense (to me) as baroque pop–a genre that exists, but whose rights should belong almost exclusively to Of Montreal. Throughout, electronic influences penetrate the record as readily as simple piano, a composition highlighted by the crescendo of “The Party’s Crashing Us,” where synth strips away to a simple ivory chord before the song crashes into its final verse.

There are occasions in Of Montreal’s career where it does feel like bizarre for bizarre’s sake. Not so here; few efforts have been as utterly enticing as Sunlandic Twins. This was their game changer. An operatic bazaar so intricately and artistically (and, yes, bizarrely) pieced together that you just want to stand and stare. words/ j crosby

Download:
MP3: Of Montreal :: I Was Never Young
MP3: Of Montreal :: Oslo In The Summertime
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+ Download Of Montreal via eMusic’s 25 free MP3 no risk trial offer
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4 Responses to “Decade :: Of Montreal, The Sunlandic Twins (2005)”

  1. “Make love like a pair of black wizards!” never fails to make me smile, and Barnes’ delivers it perfectly. Last time I saw Of Monreal live, they played “The Party’s Crashing Us” and the whole crowd screamed it at the top of our collective lungs. So fun.

    I’ve gotta assume we’ll see a Decade feature on “Hissing Fauna…” as well?

  2. I have been following your Decade series, and I usually find myself agreeing with the albums you pick. Even if I haven’t heard the album, after I’m done reading your articles I can understand the case you are trying to make for them, but in this case I’m a little confused. This article seemed to spend most of the time trying to capture the essence of Of Montreal rather than discussing the album. Now I understand the need to do that given the presence they hold simply as a band. My main issue is that when you got to talking about the album I was not convinced of your point, that this was their game changer. This was their mainstream breakout album, it was the easiest album in their catalogue to get into, but in order to be that it sacrificed most of what makes Of Montreal an interesting band. Musically this album is the band at their most basic, the sound is very empty in comparison to the majority of their work. I think for that reason it does not deserve credit. Then again since they are known as a band who constantly takes risks, maybe it is risky to then make an album that does not take risks. Playing it safe can be tricky for a band like Of Montreal. As my opinion clearly illustrates, I am a fan of Of Montreal, and I do not like this album because it does not take risks. Maybe this album deserves respect merely based on the fact that it took the risk of not taking risks. In the end I would not say that this album was a game changer so much as it was a counter-point to the majority of their other work.

  3. @Geno Per “game changer,” the point was merely that it was their most inviting album of the decade, not that it was marked shift in the direction of the band. *Because* they’ve taken risks throughout, they run the risk of convoluting the meaning of their work, of turning off audiences–they run the risk (and have been guilty) of inane silliness. Sometimes they teetered over that tipping point, here they didn’t. That said, the essence of the band is PRECISELY why this record stands out, otherwise breath wouldn’t have been wasted there. Because it cleanly captures what the band is, without careening off into the arbitrarily bizarre.

    Anyway, yours was probably the biggest criticism from OM fans when Sunlandic came out, and it’s certainly a valid opinion. (That, and then of course the Outback thing.)

  4. Okay, fair enough, I misunderstood what you meant by game changer. Thank you for clarifying that point. Also regardless of my opinion, I respect you picking this album and making a good case for it, despite the stigma that has been placed on it.

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