The Sunlandic Twins
ontinuing a career under his Elephant 6 moniker, Of Montreal only-man Kevin Barnes has had the unfortunate stigma of being the guy who has stuck to his colorful and whimsical Georgian psychedelic upbringing, amid the early millenium’s love affair with the moody, glacial rock of 1978-1982. But in his gorgeously complex, warmly synthesized new album, which might ultimately be considered the greatest album of his career, The Sunlandic Twins further reveals what Satanic Panic In the Attack began to uncover—this is a band that should not to be mistaken for Olivia Tremor Control’s little sister, a mini-Mangum, or even a psychedelic band at all. The Sunlandic Twins is, both simply and extraordinarily, an addictive, vibrant collection of pop in the most exemplary sense of the term.
While there seems to be no forced effort to fuse psychedelia with more contemporarily-appreciated styles of music, Of Montreal’s newest album will surely appeal to and complement the current listening rotation of the modern day Bloc Party/Out Hud listener. Using retro elements twelve years younger than what the band was previously associated with, synth-pop and new wave fundamentals liven Of Montreal’s unique pop sensibility without forcing an awkward hybrid. Major-keyed, hollow bass lines, high-end guitar riffs, and synthetic drum beats drive “I Was Never Young” until phasing synthesizers and a London Calling horn ensemble enter the fray. “Oslo in the Summertime” builds harmonies around a relatively dark and catchy fuzzy keyboard backbone. The gritty synthesizers of the instrumental interlude “Our Spring is Not Fleeting” would make both Brian Eno and Brian Wilson proud. And a hypnotic, duple metered bass line backs the smoothest, coolest melody of Barnes’ career in “Wraith Pinned to the Wrist (And Other Games)”—a song that will trick the most uncoordinated of the clumsy, white kids into thinking they should rise from wallflower status.
Surprisingly, the vocal restraint displayed in “Wraith to the Wrist (And Other Games)” is utilized in several other key tracks and is just as pivotal to the album’s success as Barnes’ customarily brilliant arrangements. Even though Of Montreal has justly received good reviews throughout their career, the consistency of Barnes’ bubbly vocal exuberance has often been cited as the source of the major criticisms leveled at the band. While he maintains his energetic, Ritalin-neglecting flare throughout a decent portion of the album, mature, subdued melodies fittingly back the warm string-synth, rich machine beats, slithering bass, and bright piano figures of The Sunlandic Twins. “I Was a Landscape in Your Dream,” “Oslo In the Summertime,” and “So Begins Our Alabee” reveal a Kevin Barnes more concerned with creating beautiful individual melodies than beautifying standard melodies with complex harmonies.
As always, he has placed an extraordinary amount of effort into this entire project, but exceeding his past records, the crowning achievement of The Sunlandic Twins has established a new bench mark of pop greatness in 2005. Barnes has created some utterly brilliant compositions, captured a perfect blend of melodic energy and sincerity while never sacrificing catchiness, and has used both achievements to create one of this year’s most cathartically fun albums. Simply put, The Sunlandic Twins was made for every type of listener.
STYLUSMAGAZINE.COM’S ALBUM OF THE WEEK: APRIL 10 – APRIL 16, 2005
Reviewed by: Kyle McConaghy
Reviewed on: 2005-04-11