Released: February 7, 2012
Review By: Michelle Le
The release of the critically acclaimed Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? perhaps have inspired and will continue to garner strict scrutiny over any of Montreal record that follows this pinnacle epic. One can appreciate any pop artist who takes musical and aesthetic risks, but the post-Hissing Fauna albums proved lackluster and generally did not enjoy positive reception from critics or fans. The funky sex-drenched Skeletal Lamping and False Priest were difficult to listen to.
While still remaining sonically experimental, Kevin Barnes (who is of Montreal) also alludes to the band’s older sounds and styles in Paralytic Stalks. In this concise yet dense album, Barnes’ aptitude for melody and harmony and his use of confessional, dark lyrics remain consistent. Listeners will notice the eclectic nature of of Montreal’s 11th release—ranging from progressive space rock (of the striking opening track) to colorful (yet still subtly melancholy) pop to even pseudo-country. And then there’s the last 20 minutes of the record: “Exorcismic Bleeding Knife” is some kind of strange, disorienting sound collage that makes one think of the Beatles’ “Revolution 9.” The 13-minute closing “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission” begins with Princey poppy funk and spirals into a mad, atonal soundscape. The finale then shifts into Barnes’ fragile voice singing sadly and simply, accompanied by an equally sad and simple piano.
Yes, one could deem this album “ambitious.” However, Paralytic Stalks is not entirely overwhelming to listen to. It’s actually a fascinating and enjoyable listen. Clearly, Kevin Barnes is one of the most brilliant musical minds of our time. But you can detect a hint of exhaustion in this record that has been accumulating since Hissing Fauna; after being incredibly prolific since 1997, perhaps this man needs a restful hiatus, and inspiration will then find him again.