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Thursday July 31st 2014

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Ears & Fingers

by Jason Leger

of Montreal – ‘Lousy with Sylvianbriar’

I’ve never considered of Montreal, the long-running brainchild of multi-talented Kevin Barnes, to be quite as adaptable as they have proven to be. The band released, “Lousy with Sylvianbriar,” its 12th—yep, 12th—studio album last week, and at first, it was a bit of a shock to the system. There were moments where I thought I left my iTunes on shuffle and had erroneously wandered into albums by Deerhunter or Ty Segall, but I was then surprised to find myself still deep into “Lousy.” This album is considerably more psychedelic and lo(wer)-fi than any of their releases since their burst of popularity with 2005’s “The Sunlandic Twins.” “Lousy” is brimming with glowing, glorious garage rock goodness, which is really a return to form from their early days as part of the Elephant 6 collective. The band has come full circle.

Viewing the band’s past several albums retrospectively, ending with last year’s “Paralytic Stalks,” the direction this album takes is not at all inorganic nor is it dishonest to their fan base. This is not an abrupt shift as much as it has been a casual metamorphosis that has gradually occurred. If one has fallen off since the “Sunlandic” days, the “Hissing Fauna” days, or even the period of 2010’s “False Priest,” then he would possibly be shocked by the change in sound which he did not pay close enough attention to connect the dots for.

This album also entailed a renewing of spirit and members for Barnes, as he took sabbatical in California for a time before returning home to Georgia, collecting a cast of characters, and setting to work. Taking a nod from the past, Barnes cut his attachment to the use of computers during this particular recording process and captured the entire album on a 24-track recorder, which is very impressive considering his penchant for layering effects and vocals. This album was made from entirely organic sounds played by entirely organic people. Overall, the techniques—or maybe non-techniques—applied here really pay off, as the album plays through in the vein of The Stooges, The Stones, or off shoots of Neil Young’s catalog. Highlights include the raw closer “Imbecile Rages,” whimsical lead single “Fugitive Air,” and Dylan-esque “Belle Glade Missionaries.” Absolute stand out track for this album is the eloquent and short “Raindrop in my Skull,” a chill-inducing duet with Barnes and vocalist Rebecca Cash. On their 12th album, of Montreal have allowed themselves breathing room and plenty of artistic license with what their fans expect of them, and have created something remarkable. Barnes has more than earned his way to doing anything he likes. “Lousy with Sylvianbriar” is out now via Polyvinyl Records.

If You Haven’t Heard: Black Orange Juice
Honestly, chances are you haven’t heard of UK R&B trio Black Orange Juice yet, but the fact of the matter is they are very deserving of your attention. The group, which consists of producer Ossie, and his vocalist friends Paul Black and Tilz, released their first EP, “3 Started Alone,” late last month, and since have caught the ears of some lofty publications and listeners. Earlier this year, I caught wind of their first single, “Alone.” After thinking to myself, “What a terrible group name,” I played it on a whim. I was sucked in immediately, and have had it on heavy rotation ever since. Their particular brand of R&B has a house/disco feel, but is also tinged with an ethereal, almost industrial edge, making it very dark and very infectious. The EP includes three originals, as well as a remix provided by Joe Goddard from indietronica kingpins Hot Chip. Both Spin and Pitchfork are expecting big things from these guys, and I would also like to throw my hat into that ring. If this short EP is any indication, the orange juice may be black, but the future is bright. “3 Started Alone” is out now via True Panther Records.