Nearly half a year has passed since of Montreal published a brief Facebook post announcing its 13th studio album Aureate Gloom (streaming now on NPR), and now the time has come for it to be released. Accompanying the release on March 3 is an unrelenting tour schedule that even the most seasoned bands would be fearful of tackling.
This same determination is what inspired Aureate Gloom and has driven the band’s sonic developments with each release. A need for change followed front man Kevin Barnes’ late 2013 divorce which resulted in a creative explosion that led to the completion of the record in less than a month.
The sonically chaotic album succeeds in constructing a dense lyrical narrative around a noticeably more uptempo instrumental track. In “Aluminum Crown,” Barnes sings “You can’t let them hear what you’re thinking / or they will throw you back in jail” amidst jangling guitars until the track completely deconstructs itself in the bridge into a gauzy dreamlike trance.
“Virgilian Lots” is an emotionally heavy track that catches Barnes reminiscing about his failed marriage, comparing it to the twin volcanoes of Cuauhnahuac and the destruction of a village. The optimistic tone in Barnes’ voice totally contradicts the subject matter, but the instrumental segues between the verses are complexly dissonant to reflect his confusion.
The album’s opener “Bassam Sabry” is the least personal track on the album, but the mostly likely to be heard on the airwaves of the remaining alternative rock radio stations. In fact, it contains the perfect amount of Talking Heads-esque funk and Led Zeppelin lyrical anarchy tied together loosely by the sound of violins.
A single guitar strum leads into the deep-cut “Estocadas” and is the closest the band gets to recreating the psychedelic sounds of its previous albums. There’s a dizzying keyboard arrangement that’s later accompanied by a sweeping orchestral section before everything drops out in an over-minute-long somber outro. The track honestly doesn’t work too well with the flow of the album – the lyrics suggest bitterness (“Such a stupid offering / what’s it meant to symbolize? / Hostile immobility / is it something to prize?”) while it sounds boringly downtrodden and plaintive.
Not every track on the album is memorable, but there are certainly enough memorable tracks on the album to make it safe to claim that Aureate Gloom is quite possibly the best – and most personal – the forward thinking of Montreal has sounded since the release of Skeletal Lamping back in 2008.
^ = w/ Nedelle Torrisi