Fortunate Sun 

Athens' Of Montreal make whimsical, retro-fitted pop

Sitting in an Athens coffee shop with the members of indie-pop outfit Of Montreal, you might be led to believe the following: the band features a seventh member, a bluesman named R.J. Liptonburger; they're hounded by the spectre of a snowy owl; and the name for the change drawer in their touring van is Dirty Tina. The colorful interplay and absurdist humor comes quick around Of Montreal's multi-instrumentalists Brian Poole, James Huggins, Dottie Alexander, Matt Dawson and Jason NeSmith. It befits a band that produces a spectrum of whimsical robo-disco, retro-fitted orchestral pop.

Overseeing Of Montreal's hallucinogenic sound is Kevin Barnes, who shouldered all the composition and studio duties on the group's seventh album, the recently released The Sunlandic Twins. But the album, a lysergic look at dualities, is helped by the input of all of the members who can dovetail into each other's sentences without anyone feeling that their feet are being stepped on.

It's likely that Of Montreal's sensibilities stem from the fact that the group has navigated the thin line between autonomous control and collaboration for nearly a decade, living and working on top of one another in communal houses and tour vans. "We were all here when the whole Athens scene was having its attention," says Huggins, referring to the spirited, '60s-fueled psyche-rock Elephant 6 collective of the late '90s. "It was great when people in their late 20s were unrestrained, dressing like freaks, dancing their asses off."

"Outside of Athens, though, many indie-rock songwriters were self-deprecating and ironic and afraid to show too much heart," adds Barnes. "In the last few years, however, I've realized what we'd call indie rock is having an amazing, unrestrained period. You can take chances because it no longer feels like you're working to help someone else pay for his kid's private school education, or his second Porsche. There's a youthful movement, and there's nothing wrong with a movement if it inspires like-minded people to approach things from different angles."

"I think it helps that we're older and less worried about shit," says Huggins. "We can leave the 22-year-olds to be worried about image and we can just dance with honest abandon."

"It's like the Bob Dylan song," Barnes continues. "'I was so much older then/I'm younger than that now.'"

The Sunlandic Twins shows Barnes and the group stretching both rhythmically and lyrically. It's a concept album following the story of immortals who descend to Earth to experience humanity's joy and pain. To represent these two sensations, Sunlandic Twins is broken into halves, the first sprightly and the latter more reverent. Musically, it stands as a kind of headphone masterpiece, utilizing the tightly knit countermelodies that are expected of Of Montreal.

The Sunlandic Twins masterfully marries its own chirping electronic vibe with a Kinks-ian chime, a breezy Os Mutantes breezy flit and a Bowie-esque strut. Barnes offers up some glitchy jangle and airy synth-pop, and then the rest of Of Montreal embellish it, reflecting the mercurial process that binds the like-humored musicians together.

Tony.Ware@CreativeLoafing.Com

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