Of Montreal - False Priest

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Normal is hardly the word you'd use to describe of Montreal. Their infamous experimentation with the pop genre spans over a decade and borders on schizophrenic, twisting and pulling melodies to form a psychedelic whirlwind of sounds. Yet there is beauty found in the chaotic cacophony. Led by founder and vocalist Kevin Barnes, the group reached their peak with 2007's Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, whose ADD riffs and glittering hooks delighted old fans and newcomers alike; but 2008's Skeletal Lamping was just plain weird, filled with cringe-worthy sexual escapades. The good news is that their tenth release, False Priest, offers theatricality and addictiveness with a new R&B twist, though it still has its eyebrow-raising moments.

Instead of their over-the-top, flamboyant style, however, of Montreal tones it down, diluting the extravagance in favor of mid-tempo, soothing funk tracks such as the cool jazz of "Godly Intersex." To further aid their journey into the world of R&B, the band invites Janelle Monae and Solange Knowles to share the limelight on several tracks. Admittedly, these tracks are the highlights of the album. Barne's murmuring vocals pave the way for Monae's richly melancholy lead on "Enemy Gene." And only with the help of Knowles' flair could they pull off such blatant lyrics as "I'll kiss you where I shouldn't be / Because you look like a playground to me," embedded in the easy rhymes and charming melodies of "Sex Karma."

Though this new soulful, dance-y side of of Montreal is refreshing, it lacks an overarching theme and as a result, seems like a hastily thrown-together compilation of scattered memories. It's never quite clear what meaning, if any at all, Barnes is trying to express. He jumps from doubting his ability to love on one song to rhapsodizing about unicorn meat and dragon rapes on another.

Ironically, dragon rapes seem to be the only thing on False Priest that is reminiscent of their previous quirky style. They play it safe, by their standards at least, with accessible and pleasing songs. The closest they get to experimentation is Barnes' fondness for falsettos, which reaches uncomfortable highs on certain tracks.

The only ray of light shining on Barnes' inner thoughts appears on "You Do Mutilate?" Don't be fooled by the cheery beat and sunny falsettos - they thinly veil loaded lyrics. Barnes warns that "if you think some prophet's words are more important / Than your brother and your sister / You are ill and you are wrong," the only reference (albeit indirect) to the album title.

False Priest is an entertaining album and nothing more. Of Montreal reach their highs with fanciful harmonies and sing-along choruses but the album contains too many scattered themes to convey any emotional depth.

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