Of Montreal-Innocence Reaches_Album Review

In a genre as dynamic as indie rock, aging is always going to be tough to deal with.  First albums can often be promising, as new ideas always reach the surface quicker than older sounds, but maintaining fresh musicality becomes an increasingly arduous task as years pass by.  Fourteen albums into their career, even a band as risky as Of Montreal seems to be hitting some roadblocks.  Innocence Reaches is an attempt at a more electronic dance sound with pulsing synthesizers carrying the slightly monotone vocals of Kevin Barnes through a series of slightly different vibes.  Unfortunately, the album reads as very stale with little energy coming out of the performances and lifeless grooves making the near-hour long track-listing hard to sit through.  Also, the shifts in approach to songwriting fail for the most part either sounding drowned in influences or all too similar to the other tunes on the album.  Obviously a career like Of Montreal’s is not going to be forgotten because of one below average album, however, this one certainly feels like a dud.

The album kicks off with a catchy pop melody, shifting towards a melancholy dance vibe with the addition of Barnes’ vocals.  Themes of identification and fashion pop up throughout, providing commentary on the gender binary discussion that has been more prominent in the media over the past couple years. “It’s Different for Girls” provides a bit more groove, guitar and punching synths accompanying wordy vocals making for a slight increase in energy.  Here Barnes again addresses gender norms, mentioning stereotypes and societal criticism in the same breath.  On the next couple tracks, the album takes some lackadaisical ups and downs, “Gratuitous Abysses” pulling pretty directly out of the book of David Bowie, “My Fair Lady” taking a mellow approach to some general rock sounds, and “Les Chants de Maldoror” trying to vamp up the punk aesthetic.  From here on out the album honestly plateaus with some electronic rock vibes coming in and out, each song limping along at a similar pace.

There’s just no punch to the music, perhaps a product of the slight changes in direction.  It is interesting to hear a wide-ranging slew of rock and dance music in one place, but the band lacks commitment keeping them in a luke-warm state throughout.  Synthesizers, although more prominent than in previous Of Montreal projects, remain conservative, not taking the same risks as some of the more masterful modern artists in the world.  Barne’s vocal delivery is even a bit too mellow, adding to the plain overall instrumental sound.  The lack of punch may be a result of the band’s age.  It may have been quite risky and intriguing to place rock music alongside dance music when the group started, but dance music has grown a lot; the likes of Nao and Jessy Lanza effortlessly hit harder than this project, even at their most mellow.

As far as songwriting goes, Barnes does decently well, but he presents little to no new ideas.  The choruses are his usual lengthy vocal melodies with grandiose background sounds adding a colorful feel to the soundscape.  Lyrically, the album has a few moments.  “Def Pacts” presents a juxtaposition, one side of Barnes sweetly longing towards a significant other, another suggesting a rather dark polar opposite: “Of course this world would be better without you” being the very first lyric.  “My Fair Lady” also talks about a love interest in a rather peculiar way suggesting that the lady is too broken for Barnes to love.

Innocence Reaches doesn’t completely lack artistry.  Of Montreal still has a way with words, but the boring overall sound to the record makes the album hard to listen to.  Hopefully the band will recharge their sound for the next album.

-Donovan Burtan

Very bland and forgettable 4/10.

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