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Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins

Polyvinyl Records, Released April 12, 2005

“May we never go mental/may we always stay gentle” sings Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes on “Forecast Fascist Future”, a track from the band’s seventh full-length The Sunlandic Twins. It’s an ironic lyric when you consider just how mental most of Barnes’ music really is. His Athens, Ga., band is one of the premier psychedelic-pop bands in the game, with roots in the Elephant 6 collective and a commitment to the pop hallmarks of hand claps, cowbells and ridiculously sweet hooks and harmonies. Their song structures are not far from those of The Shins, but Of Montreal also sound like a 1960s cereal jingle on acid. It’s a good thing – the trippier and weirder they get, the better they sound.

Studio trickery makes all the difference for music like this, and Sunlandic is a terrifically constructed record perfect for headphone listening. On their last record, the critically lauded Satanic Panic in the Attic, Of Montreal began a movement toward both darker and dancier songs, and the infusion of these influences helps keep their pop tunes more variable and interesting. There’s even more of these sounds on the new record, and the consistent swing from sunny to moody makes it all the more enjoyable. Barnes calls it his “foray into 21st century A.D.D. electro cinematic avant-disco” with an aim to “create multifarious scenes that shift from sunlit simplicity to purgatorial gloom.” Indeed, too much saccharine can kill a man and Of Montreal make sure you get your fix without overdosing. The album’s third track “Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games” keeps the hook alive (I can’t stop singing “Let’s pretend we don’t exist/Let’s pretend we’re in Antarctica”) but mixes in a dark almost trance-y beat. Later on, Sunlandic’s best song “I Was a Landscape in Your Dream” is awash in melody but darkened on its underbelly by a shadowy synth line.

The happier-sounding songs are great too: “The Party’s Crashing Us” is poppy and addictive, and the straightforward lead track “Requiem for O.M.M.2”, with its rockin’ cowbell chorus, sticks in your brain as well. Fortunately, Barnes and his band make sure things never remain strictly in place for too long.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.