Album Review: of Montreal – Daughter of Cloud
Release date: October 23, 2012
It goes without saying that in the heights of accomplishments for Kevin Barnes and of Montreal, the mere presence of a rarities disc for commercial consumption is a big deal. Not everyone gets to do this, and for many reasons: you need to have that much high quality leftover material, you must have a label willing to support it and fans willing to buy it. In this instance, Barnes strikes gold, or at least bronze.
Rarities disc are usually pre-doomed – or plastered with a negative stigma from the start. Not everyone has a Pisces Iscariot in their back pocket like Billy Corgan did in the mid-90’s. Most rarities discs in the subconscious mind of fans are just An Album of Stuff We Didn’t Think Was Good Enough For our Albums. But once in awhile, it works – when pulled off by the right band. In this instance we benefit from Barnes’s compulsive recording style – his prolific nature is almost etched into its own granite cliche by now. Calling Barnes prolific is like calling Big Bird yellow. We know. We also know some of his music is great and we all know that he’ll test the boundaries of our listening palette between something we must have and something that he made and sounded good (but only to him at the time). Anything from of Montreal these days is going to test your attention span. A potpourri of soul, funk, pop and everything else Barnes can find – all mixed together. When we watched and reviewed Barnes during his live set in Minneapolis the obvious comparisons to 80’s-Prince were found everywhere. From the private, manic, prolific, multi-instrumentalist recording star, to the androgynous garb, to the bandmaster personality on stage. He openly oozes his Princely influences. And that’s OK.
An album by itself, Daughter of Cloud is fine. These aren’t basement recordings on a 4-track. Sonically, they’re excellent and will merge just fine right into shuffle play among your other of Montreal tracks. The album is quite honestly, a microcosm of Barnes typical output; 20 percent pop brilliance, 70 percent slightly above or below average, and 10 percent of “I can’t believe he included this one” bad stuff. But that’s OK – I could name a dozen stinkers from Prince and heck, even the Beatles probably wish they could yank a track or two off the White Album (well, at least Ringo’s stuff). Tracks like ‘Feminine Effects’ and ‘Steppin Out’ are in the top 20%, as are a few of the other 17 included. This goes beyond something for the diehards. Casual fans will enjoy it as they digest and adore some songs that for some reason Barnes left behind. Fans that fight through that “rarities” stigma will embrace most of it, and for those who choose not too – that’s probably OK because Barnes typically has another set of thesaurus-busting tracks right around the scary corners he surrounds himself in.