Music News & Reviews

April 3, 2014

Of Montreal stretches the boundaries

You never know what Kevin Barnes is going to do.

You never know what Kevin Barnes is going to do.

That unpredictability is evident on the Of Montreal’s latest offering, “Lousy With Sylvianbriar.”

Once listeners get past the the unwieldy title of the album, they’re in for a treat. The folk-pop-rock is intense and pastoral. It’s volatile yet melodic. Barnes, who is essentially Of Montreal, is influenced by the finest of the ’60s and ’70s. It’s evident Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Gram Parsons had an impact.

“All of those recording artists had a huge effect on me when I was growing up and especially when I was writing these songs,” Barnes said on the phone recently from Greensboro, N.C.

“Bob Dylan is one of the greatest, if not the greatest lyricist ever,” he said. “And then there are the Stones. When you listen to those albums, like ‘Beggar’s Banquet,’ ‘Let It Bleed’ and ‘Exile On Main Street,’ they’re incredible the first time you hear those albums, and you never get tired of hearing those songs. I was moved to write like these artists did back during the ’60s. I’m not saying I accomplished that, but they moved me in a particular direction.”

There’s also a welcome grit on the album; it’s not sonically perfect. “When you’re perfect making a record, there’s no spontaneity,” Barnes said. “Everything is flawless today and that doesn’t mean it’s better. Using only computers isn’t for me. I didn’t do that. I opted not to try to be perfect.”

Barnes is all about reinvention. “I’m born again every couple of months,” he said.

After recording most of Of Montreal’s albums by himself in Athens, Ga., Barnes traveled to San Francisco and invited other musicians to be on “Lousy With Sylvianbriar.”

“That was just a reaction thing,” Barnes explained. “I needed to do something different, and I did. If you move in a different direction, it’ll help you get somewhere else.”

There will be songs from “Lousy With Sylvianbriar,” of course, but expect Barnes to reach back deep into the canon when Of Montreal performs Friday at Crown Uptown. “I’ll go six or seven albums back,” Barnes said. “It can’t all be about this album. I realize that, even though I’m really taken with the new material. I realize that people want to hear those older songs. I’m fine with that.”

But don’t expect the quirky vocalist-multi-instrumentalist to repeat “Lousy With Sylvianbriar.” “I’m already thinking about what I’ll do next,” Barnes said. “I guarantee you I’m not going to look back and make something that sounds like what I just did. Next time, I’m going to do something futuristic. I’m going to do something electronic. Maybe it’ll sound like something nobody has ever done before.

“I want to try to stretch the boundaries. That’s the kind of stuff that’s fun to me. With this album I went back, but I don’t think I replicated what anyone did. I put my own spin on it. That’s what I do.”

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