Of/not-Of Montreal
August 19, 2009 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Of Montreal's The Sunlandic Twins is one of my favourite albums, but I can't make much headway with any of their other releases. Seeking album/track recommendations, writing, or points of view that might suggest a way in.

I have Cherry Peel, Hissing Fauna..., and Aldhils Arboretum on hand (and will buy more). Aldhils Arboretum in particular feels like a weak and precious bunch of indie pop songs, and repeated efforts with it are putting me off exploring further - I wasn't doing too badly with Hissing Fauna... itself but I'm frustrated and could do with some direction.

The Sunlandic Twins works for me because I like the variety within individual song structures (passing from tight and synthy to big explosions of brass etc), there's enough poppiness to counterbalance the psychedelic touches, and the upbeat songs with downbeat lyrics are charming. I'm wondering if I'm looking for those qualities in the other work instead of seeing the different-but-awesome character of each one.

Which songs should I be starting with to get hooked on each album? What is particularly good about each album?
posted by carbide to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
I'm in a similar boat; got in via Sunlandic Twins but been put-off a little by the newer stuff. I'll let better fans than I give specific recommendations, but you may want to check out Satanic Panic in the Attic - the sound is pretty similar to Sunlandic Twins; "Disconnect the Dots" and "Rapture Rapes the Muses" in particular come to mind.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:33 AM on August 19, 2009

Hissing Fauna is now my favorite album. Highlights:

Gronlandic Edit
She's a Rejector
The Past is a Grotesque Animal
posted by hermitosis at 9:44 AM on August 19, 2009

I've found that Of Montreal is not backwards compatible with itself. Each album obliterates memory of the previous, meaning the farther back you go, the more egregious it is. With that said, Hissing Fauna is tough because it is a break-up album. Subconsciously it exudes some of that sadness. I recommend last year's album, Skeletal Lamping. In my opinion the best way to inject yourself with it is to put the album on and don't touch it, for at least 3 listenings. Then you might want to skip the first track.
posted by stresstwig at 10:02 AM on August 19, 2009

Additionally, since I totally missed your actual question there, I see each album as a sort of departure from cohesion, where the songs really let the hook out. This begins most earnestly in Satanic Panic, but the songs are still ideas which remain in whole, instead of frenetic switchups. Sunlandic Twins seems to realize this effort, and both of the albums after that (Hissing fauna and Skeletal Lamping) travel further towards this ideal.
posted by stresstwig at 10:06 AM on August 19, 2009

Best answer: Satanic Panic in the Attic! That's their clear second best. (I agree that Sunlandic Twins is their best.)

Hissing Fauna... is spottier. Too many songs are aimless and/or irritating (the very songs hermitosis mentions!), but there are a few good ones: Suffer for Fashion, A Sentence of Sorts... (though it's a blatant rip-off of The Party's Crashing Us).

I found Skeletal Lamping (their most recent album) unlistenable, but you might be interested in these couple comments, where someone answered my question about how to derive some merit from it. I think OM has given up on well-crafted songs and just cares about having a spectacular live show now.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:14 AM on August 19, 2009

Hissing Fauna is one of the best and most accessible in my opinion. If what you're looking for is more of the

poppiness to counterbalance the psychedelic touches, and the upbeat songs with downbeat lyrics

then i would suggest Gay Parade as your next step. 'we love you nicky coco' is fun.

In my opinion the best way to inject yourself with it is to put the album on and don't touch it

this, no matter which album you pick. that being said i would actually do skeletal lamping last, not first. i'm a huge of montreal fan and even i have trouble with its accessibility, still.
posted by Muffpub at 10:14 AM on August 19, 2009

Best answer: In my opinion, their work pre-Satanic Panic is less polished. Not to say there's no decent music in Gay Parade, Cherry Peel, &c. but they're probably the last albums you want to check out. Excluding the real early stuff, you can explore the albums chronologically:

Satanic Panic in the Attic is similar to The Sunlandic Twins because they're the closest of Montreal has ever gotten to making a straight up rock album (excluding pre-Satanic stuff) and even then it's definitely psychedelic rock. Tomorrowful's track recommendations are great, and I'd add "Climb the Ladder".

Hissing Fauna is their darkest album to date and it was my introduction to the band. Again, hermitosis beat me to the punch with the tracks. Don't know if you're already a fan of The Flaming Lips, but I listened to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots alongside Hissing Fauna and they're probably the closest sounding band, although Wayne Coyne is no Kevin Barnes. Icons, Abstract Thee is an overlooked EP with some of their best work. You might actually want to try this before Hissing Fauna; my favorite track in the EP is Voltaic Crusher.

Skeletal Lamping is easily their least accessible track, and the first song— ending with a barrage of high pitched guitar screeching— isn't for the faint of heart. An Eluardian Instance is a good start but my favorite thing ever is singing aloud the opening line of Wicked Wisdom. The album's singles, Gallery Piece and Id Engager should highlight just how different Skeletal Lamping is from any of their previous work. Believe it or not, the first track does start to sound very good after a couple listenings.

If you can see their live show, definitely do it. You might love it or hate it but you will get your money's worth.

Ignore the star ratings entirely, but I've found Amazon reviews of albums are sometimes a nice way to figure out why people love a certain album. I use their lists to find similar sounding music.
posted by yaymukund at 10:15 AM on August 19, 2009

'we love you nicky coco' 'nicky coco and the invisible tree'
posted by Muffpub at 10:17 AM on August 19, 2009

Oh, I guess I didn't technically answer your question about Satanic Panic in the Attic -- "Which songs should I be starting with to get hooked on each album? What is particularly good about each album?" I would just strongly urge you to buy it and listen to the whole thing. I don't think it really needs explanation, any more than you need someone to tell you why The Sunlandic Twins is a good album.

Also, a couple albums you haven't mentioned that I specifically recommend NOT buying are If He Is Protecting... and The Gay Parade. They started releasing albums before they really became competent at making good music.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:19 AM on August 19, 2009

this question keeps rattling around in my head - more thoughts -

if you're trying to get into of montreal and having problems you may want to focus more on individual songs then on album structures. for example, nobody's mentioned 'Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse' which i think is super charming but does have its laggy moments. the songs that stand out however, are among the first i ever heard and i still hold near and dear to me - 'good morning mr edmonton', which then seamlessly transforms into 'peacock parasols' and 'lets do everything for the first time forever' (so so so charming!). you should check them out.

also 'city bird's another oldy but a goody.
posted by Muffpub at 10:35 AM on August 19, 2009

Best answer: I haven't really made a study of Of Montreal, just picked up various songs over the years and been impressed by the evolution of their sound.

That said, I'm passionate about The Past Is A Grotesque Animal. Definitely in my own personal Top 30 songs of the millennium so far ... probably Top 10. Love has seldom been so fucked up or honest.
posted by philip-random at 10:52 AM on August 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm actually really into Skeletal Lamping. As others have said, it's best if you can listen to it all the way through. I listen to "An Eluardian Instance" by itself all the time, though. It was my ringtone for a while. Just thinking about it makes me smile and bob my head.

So, yeah, that song might be a good way to get excited about Of Montreal's (I think really considerable) talent.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:59 AM on August 19, 2009

Best answer: Have you tried Satanic Panic in the Attic? It is a great album and songs like "Rapture Rapes the Muses" and "Lysergic Bliss" are extremely similar to what you would hear on Sunlandic Twins. of Montreal is one of my all-time favorite bands, and I know what made me really, really fall in love with everything they do is going to one of their concerts. From the first note all the way through the third encore (including a cover of "When Doves Cry" by Prince), as soon as I left, I fell in love with all of their previous albums, since at the time I was focused primarily on Sunlandic Twins. I've been to hmm... 12 of their concerts now? And every time I leave loving them more.
posted by banannafish at 11:20 AM on August 19, 2009

I like Gallery Piece on Skeletal Lamping, but it could certainly be seen as too pretentious.

I like two of their covers as well, Do You Remember Walter? and Jimmy (M.I.A.). You can get Jimmy on vinyl but I don't know if DYRW is on any CDs or if it is a one track purchase.
posted by soelo at 11:51 AM on August 19, 2009

Response by poster: I very nearly didn't ask this, and I'm so glad I did because it's incredibly helpful - thanks for the pointers, and for getting why I am so keen to persist. Current plan of action is to go with Hissing Fauna, Satanic Panic and Skeletal Lamping for a bit. I missed seeing them live a few times recently and won't let it happen again.

philip-random: you're dead right, and I wish I'd fallen for The Past Is A Grotesque Animal in that way before now because it's amazing.
posted by carbide at 3:41 PM on August 19, 2009

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