Thanks to “Pure Honey” for “getting” how I write and inviting me to compose an ode to Of Montreal in the 23rd issue of their ‘zine. Long-time album artist David Barnes and younger brother to the band’s frontman/mastermind Kevin Barnes took on the role of mouthpiece. And did he deliver.

He took my probing questions into his relationship with his older brother via email and either embraced them or turned them inside out, depending on how you might look at it. Though his answers had a fantastical element (he shared that, as children, his parents would reward he and Kevin with “the hose” and punish them by allowing them to dry out and “turn to dust”), they still revealed an honest love/hate relationship those with siblings might relate with. You can read the full story by jumping through the “Pure Honey” logo below…


The editor of “Pure Honey” also commissioned the younger Barnes to compose the cover art for that month’s issue and a poster for Of Montreal’s Miami show. See the images for yourself by jumping through the detail of the cover art below:

Pure Honey Of Montreal cover art detail by David Barnes

Hans Morgenstern

Of Montreal perform with Yip Deceiver in Miami on Friday, July 5 at Grand Central. DJ set by Afrobeta. The show is all ages and is scheduled for 8 p.m. It is SOLD OUT.

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Of Montreal have scored quite a critical success with their new album False Priest. Mastermind Kevin Barnes has focused on songcraft in a way unseen on any of his band’s prior nine albums. The potential for straight up songs has always been there. He just had this ADD manner of shifting songs in tempo, melody and sometimes all out atmosphere with little warning.

This all reached its peak with 2008’s Skeletal Lamping, which has often been derided as a mess and failure. I, at first, thought the same thing, but repeated listens and a familiarity of the songs rewards patience. The resulting tour, not surprisingly, was also an explosion of over-stimulating stage sets. They even had a full-on rotating set with a room-full of props. From memories of them playing the floor at the Miami Polish-American Club, in the late nineties, when they were still on the Kindercore label, this was a grandiose upgrade. So, the last couple of times I have seen them since the Skeletal Lamping tour, the band has been its own tough act to follow.

That said, for an Of Montreal show, Friday’s performance at Revolution in Fort Lauderdale was not bad at all. Kid Sister was hand-picked by Barnes to open this brief leg of the tour (a lengthier Of Montreal tour is scheduled for the spring). Kid Sister is a far cry from the much heavier hyped Janelle Monae who not only toured with Of Montreal last year but also added vocals to a song on False Priest. Of Montreal returned the favor with a Barnes-penned collaboration on Monae’s debut album, the ArchAndroid. Monae then went off to tour with Prince, of all people. She has probably received more acclaim than Of Montreal, as some great new hope for alternative neo soul.

Kid Sister made an effort, but the send-up to old “skool” hip-hop did little to move the crowd of white, teenage indie kids. Let’s face it, they ain’t the target audience to appreciate that genre of music, which, as Kid Sister presented it, really clung tight to the roots of hip-hop and never ventured beyond that box. See the last song of their set here:

After the derivative beats and swagger of Kid Sister, her only back up, a loud-mouthed DJ on a computer and a pair of turntables, stuck around on stage to play some hits and classics. But the only song that had the crowd screaming and jumping was a snippet of A-Ha’s “Take On Me.”  He soon left the stage, buoyant and positive with his work, and it was a short wait for Of Montreal to appear.

When the band did take the stage, they formed a semi-circle around the microphone stand where Barnes would rule the stage with his Prince-inspired sexualized energy and a nod to the ambiguous glam rock pioneered by David Bowie in the early 70s. It was a neat set of songs spanning mostly the later years of the Of Montreal discography, and the entire performance lasted a little less than an hour and a half.

As the band’s set up was in the back and corners of the stage, the show hardly showcased musicianship. More essential to the show were the theatrics of costumed dancers that continually invaded the stage. The outfits were over-the-top and the antics often spilled over into the crowd. At one point, a girl and guy donned pink skin-tight suits with pig masks to ride a raft on top of the crowd as they humped each other. I was not recording at the time, but luckily YouTuber Dukethrash captured it:

I missed recording a lot of the theatrics, such as when Barnes entered the stage on a dragon composed of his dancers for  “Hydra Fancies.” But some of my favorite bits were a bit more subtle. Kid Sister returned to the stage for a great rendition of the Prince-penned “Sex Shooter” as a grotesque fashion show featuring some dancers feeding some lucky members of the front row from metal catering trays. Here is that song in its entirety:

Before that, I was able to capture a couple of songs back-to-back. Here is “Famine Affair” and “Suffer For Fashion”:

I also recorded the start of the encore, including two more back-to-back numbers before my camera died just as “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse” began. That would have been the last song of the night. Here’s what I got of the encore, which began with the Of Montreal dance crew rousing up the audience, a shtick the band routinely uses to keep the energy going even when they are off-stage:

All things considered, it was an entertaining show, even lacking the high-production craziness of the prior tour. Of Montreal are certainly a band for the new generation, as could be seen by the age of the audience, but also, they know how to hold their attention. The theatrics even pulled my focus away from the musicians more often than I liked.

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Best records heard in 2010

December 30, 2010

I finally return just before 2010 ends, with a recap of the 10 best new records I heard this year (I probably spent too much time over-editing this post, but I also spent a lot of time catching up on tons of other albums that did not make the final cut below). I guess I should have finished this up before Christmas, as all the titles of the albums listed below link to Amazon.com, should you feel compelled to invest in these great albums. But, I’m not in this blogging thing for the money. Still, if you want any of these on vinyl, I would suggest you do it sooner than later anyway, as some LP records, unlike their CD or mp3 cousins, only get limited runs.

Without further ado…1. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (DFA/Virgin)
Not just the best album I heard the year, but one of the best I have heard in many years. LCD Soundsystem seemed to have merged an array of my favorite musical ingredients, including Krautrock, post punk, David Bowie and prog. The sometimes lengthy songs on This is Happening never relent, riding infectious, poly-rhythmic beats to some transcendent place in music well-rooted in the best of the rock ‘n’ roll canon.

2. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (4AD)
There is just something so other-worldly about this album. It harks back to the past of pop music while reaching to the future beyond. Deerhunter has brought its dream-like lusciousness to a smart, subtle  level. Halcyon Digest seems to echo from some alternate, ghostly dimension in music.

3. MGMT – Congratulations (Columbia)
Congratulations was a bold step forward by MGMT, while staying true to its psychedelic art rock roots. The group moves beyond disco catchiness to something much more complex, earning comparisons to Pink Floyd, the Beatles and Brian Eno.

4. Mogwai – Special Moves (Rock Action)
Though I have been a dedicated fan of this post rock outfit, following their every release since 1998’s Kicking a Dead Pig, this live double album tracing their decade-plus career made me fall in love with the band all over again. Mogwai have always been generous with their releases, throwing in behind-the-scenes footage on  DVD alongside their recent albums. This live package happens to contain a long-form film of the live show recorded in Brooklyn on DVD, capturing the group in their typical focused and intense form. I was able to find a rare triple vinyl edition package that also included a patch and signed poster, as seen in the image. Only 550 copies featured the signed poster and sold out rather fast on their website.

5. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Merge)
I like Arcade Fire because, as modern as they are, they seem very nostalgic and very anti-tech, even while offering a very baroque musical style that is brash, full of energy and in the now. Beyond their lyrics spelling this theme out, their vinyl records have always been produced with great care, and the Suburbs was no exception. They even posted images of every track on individual vinyl acetates, ahead of the album’s release (the image above is the first track, as featured on their website).

6. Beach House – Teen Dream (Sub Pop)
A consistently dreamy album built on delicate melodies instead of the wash of noise that is so easy for dream-pop bands to hide behind. I picked up the vinyl album after I saw them live for the first time. It came with a DVD with amateurish videos for each song. None of these videos come near to equating the splendor of the music that defies visual representation. It’s best left unwatched.

7. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)
My love for Broken Social Scene stemmed from their sonic kinship with bands like the Sea and Cake and Tortoise. When they got together with those band’s drummer and key sonic engineer, John McEntire, for this new album, it felt like a perfect match. The results were indeed a magic melding of McEntire’s projects with BSS. A limited run of this album came out as a set of colored 10-inch 180 gram vinyl records with one song one each side. It was limited to only 500 copies, but it seems you can still get it on-line.

8. The Vaselines – Sex with an X (Sub Pop)
A brilliant comeback more than 20 years in the making. It’s like Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee had never separated at the end of the 80s. Their sly sense of humor remains intact, not to mention the brash song-writing that still echoes their garage-rock origins, albeit with a more polished and glossier production.9. Of Montreal – False Priest (Polyvinyl)
Speaking of a more polished sound, Of Montreal followed up the most insane record of their career, Skeletal Lamping, with the better focused False Priest. It did not take many listens to fall under the glammy, soulful spell of this neo glam rock outfit’s landmark 10th album. More than ever, mastermind and singer Kevin Barnes shows off his leanings toward Prince-inspired stylings with not only his howls and moans but also his songcraft.

10. Stereolab – Not Music (Drag City)
Stereolab made a low-key return to the indie music scene at the end of the year with their new “non-album” composed of outtakes from the sessions that produced 2008’s Chemical Chords. Appropriately titled Not Music, the album reveals the “groop” at its most unrestrained in years. “Silver Sands” was just a low-key three-minute ditty on Chemical Chords, but on Not Music, it’s extended to take on a whole side of one of the slabs of vinyl to jam out in all it’s Krautrock-inspired glory. This was a glorious return to the old Stereolab I fell in love with in the early nineties. The collector-friendly (or frustrating, depending on how you see it) band has released only 500 copies of the vinyl version of the album on clear wax via the UK’s Rough Trade store. Yep, I got a copy.

Finally, though I know I have been on “hiatus” for a while (man, the indie world is quiet this time of year), I do plan a prompt follow-up to present readers with the most impressive re-issue I came across this year, and I did come across several cool things.

For now, do share your top own 10 albums in the comment section below (it doesn’t have to be vinyl).

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

I’d like to dedicate this blog post to my wife! If it were not for her, I would have never given Of Montreal the chance they deserved. Now I am excited to say they are getting closer to the release of their latest full-length album, False Priest. I last covered this Atlanta-based indie outfit when they made what seemed like an impromptu appearance in Miami Beach for a live show back in April. Their new album was a long ways away then, and they had already showed up in South Florida for an elaborate live show at Club Revolution, one of the greatest shows I had ever seen at the venue, less than a year earlier. Back then they were promoting 2008’s Skeletal Lamping. I had hoped to hear more new material from the upcoming False Priest album, but they only played one new song, “Like a Tourist.” You can see the video I made here:

It points to the continued growth of a band I had first written off as a cutesy, though chaotically angular Beach Boys-obsessed outfit to something more soulful. In fact, according to their label, Polyvinyl’s website, the band hired Jon Brion, who co-produced Kanye West’s 2005 album Late Registration, to produce. They also recorded it at Ocean Way Recording in Hollywood, California, where Michael Jackson recorded some of his most famous works. You can see a wall of albums recorded there by going here. Finally, Solange Knowles, Beyoncé’s sister, also makes a guest appearance on the record.

Besides a regular release of the album on CD and 180 gram vinyl, Polyvinyl is offering nice packages of the album with T-shirts, buttons, stickers and the like, but what sparks my interest the most is the limited edition red vinyl version, also 180 g. Only 2,000 of those will be made available. You can only get it through their website, here.

The only track so far made officially available ahead of the album’s official Sept. 14 release date is “Coquet Coquette.” You can download it here. Most recently, the music website RCRD LBL, hosted a remix of the song by Yip Deceiver, which you can download here.

Tour dates so far do not include South Florida, but from the time they played tiny venues in Miami like the Polish American Club, Of Montreal have not been one to let down their South Florida fans. I would expect them to make a stop sometime early next year, as they seemed booked for the rest of the year. You can see those tour dates here.

I’ll leave you with a trailer for the album that features samples of the news songs, which again point to Of Montreal mastermind Kevin Barnes’ growing obsession with soulful, cheeky rock, not too far removed from Prince’s early 80s work. Check it out for yourself:

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Air Live in Miami Beach.

Originally uploaded by Hans Morgenstern

So Air have begun their U.S. tour in support of their new album Love 2. They kicked it off with their live Florida debut in Miami Beach last night, Saturday, Mar. 13. It was a nice show. They managed to pull off the three-piece band very well while staying true to the essence of the songs they covered. The set seemed to go by fast, as they mostly stuck with up-beat tracks, which they pulled predominantly from Love 2, 10,000 Hz Legend and Moon Safari.

Though I did my best to appreciate the music of the night, some notable a-holes distracted me from the show, including some dork who snuck in a drink and a joint. Him and his friend blocked our view for the first song and then disappeared after we moved to another location, so we went back to our seats. Then there was a stupid hipster with an even stupider Zach Efron haircut and a Bud Light who would not stop chatting with his girlfriend. He sat behind us for the first half of the show, but left early, clearly not in tune with the music. Probably went to his car to listen to some Justin Timberlake.

Anyhow, those notable jerks, aside, the show was still good. I’m just glad the up-coming Of Montreal show at the same venue is general admission, so we can at least move to another location if idiots abound.

I made a few videos (as well as the photos you see here scattered through this post) and pooled them together here. Enjoy, and do share your comments if you were there, or if you are about to see any of the future dates, which you can see in my post about the tour here. I hope you think the clips (all entire songs) bodes well for whatever upcoming date you hope to catch them at.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)