The journey that of Montreal's Kevin Barnes has been on both in music and in life over the past decade-plus has been colorful, to say the least. He's gone from an ultra-twee indie pop miniaturist who sounded like he could barely get out of bed, much less his bedroom, to a half-naked ultra-pop maximalist who commands a stage and can't wait to get ...
The journey that of Montreal's Kevin Barnes has been on both in music and in life over the past decade-plus has been colorful, to say the least. He's gone from an ultra-twee indie pop miniaturist who sounded like he could barely get out of bed, much less his bedroom, to a half-naked ultra-pop maximalist who commands a stage and can't wait to get into your bedroom. He's probably shed a few fans of the band's early Elephant 6 sound along the way as the focus has shifted from the Beach Boys to Prince, from indie pop to capitol "P" pop. Even the fans who stuck with the band may have been put off by oM's previous album, Skeletal Lamping, which was quite graphic sexually and was half-baked and scattered musically. Hopefully any deserters will come back for False Priest, because this is the record where Barnes and oM put it back together in a graceful and fun package that's filled with super-slick and hooky songs that sound tailor-made for pop radio in 2010 (if Mars had a radio station, that is...). Unlike on Skeletal, the songs are fully realized and produced with smooth perfection by Barnes and co-conspirator Jon Brion. There's more focus and less weirdness for weirdness' sake here, too. And very importantly, Barnes' lyrics are predictably obscure and wacky, but instead of being creepy this time, they are back to being funny and sometimes sweet. It definitely makes the album easier to listen to, but even if the words were more over the top it might not matter since the music sounds so good. Brion and Barnes form the nucleus of the group (with Matt Chamberlain on drums) and they create a funky and rubbery sound that's equally influenced by Prince, modern R&B, and '70s disco prog but comes out sounding exceedingly modern. It's an approach that will appeal to listeners who are able to see beyond strict genre boundaries and not worry about categories. The presence of fellow genre-benders Janelle MonŠe and Solange Knowles on the album is proof of this appeal. Any album that can bounce from the indie rock of "Coquet Coquette" to the stuttering funk of "Girl Named Hello" to the singer/songwriter balladry of "Casualty of You" and back to the bouncy pop of "I Feel Ya' Strutter" and Strokes-y modern rock of "Famine Affair" is definitely the work of someone who doesn't care about rules. It's the kind of album you wish Prince would make in 2010, the kind of album you can be glad someone is making in 2010. Though it's a little long and a couple songs veer toward filler, it's a return to form for of Montreal and more than justifies the hype and attention their live show has garnered. ~ Tim Sendra, Rovi