You can’t count the number of albums in of Montreal’s discography on both hands. You could expand the counting task beyond fingers and into toe territory, but even then you’d have to use both feet, and is it really worth taking your shoes off at that point?
No matter your answer to that question, I’ll allow you to keep your footwear on and just inform you that the number of full length albums by of Montreal now totals 16. It’s a staggering figure, and any artist with that amount of material under their belt has to either warrant undeniable legend-status or change across their musical career to remain relevant.
The colorful indie-pop darlings from Athens, Georgia long ago chose the latter. Led by the indefatigable Kevin Barnes since 1996, of Montreal have managed the chameleon act at several key moments. These moments have translated into some of their best work. Think 1999’s The Gay Parade where much of the band changed instruments resulting in the group’s most melodic work yet. Or think 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? which was largely recorded by Barnes in isolation and turned into a quasi-concept album on chemical imbalance and mood fluctuations.
But does a band always need to change? With the 2020 release of UR FUN, Barnes is certainly leaning toward a ‘no’. But that answer in the negative carries no sign of abject resignation or uninteresting stagnation. Rather, UR FUN leans into the characteristics that have continually made of Montreal who they are: polished song structures, sparkling pop production, and clever lyricism from Barnes (who knew ecstasy is the right move for couple’s therapy?).
Admittedly, the project does lack cohesion. It’s all too easy to notice that the tracklist is more of a patchwork collection of individual singles than any sort of unified assemblage of sounds. The record also suffers from consistency issues at times, translating into some tracks towering over others in quality (“Polyaneurism” steals the show). Even so, through 16 albums it is beyond admirable that of Montreal haven’t taken a step back, just taken a slide to the side.
of Montreal will make a stop in Philadelphia this Friday, March 6th when they perform at Union Transfer. Grab tickets here.