Happy Birthday Kevin Barnes!
by Maggie Danna on May 31, 2016
Posted in: Music
Yesterday was Kevin Barnes’ birthday. He is of Montreal, having written almost every song the band has released, and at this point the group is pretty much a Kevin solo project. 42 is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, at least according to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and 42 is also how old Kevin is now. I have made a playlist of his 42* best (in my opinion), most popular, and most varied songs to celebrate his birthday and provide a good starting point for thoroughly exploring his music, which includes many hundreds of songs. The playlist also has a couple tracks by other artists that feature him. I’ve even included “Exorcismic Breeding Knife”, which just about everyone hates (sorry Kevin, I loathe it), as he feels this song is really important to him on a personal level.
of Montreal began when Kevin was signed by Bar/None Records in 1996 and quickly recruited friends to form a band. Becoming part of the Elephant 6 collective, the original focus was a Beach Boys and Beatles inspired 60s psych pop homage of sorts. I’ve ordered the playlist approximately chronologically as one of the things that makes of Montreal so amazing is how much their style has changed over the years. The first albums were very twee and whimsical, sweet and beautiful though verging on cloying in spots. Then they broke the Elephant 6 mold with the addition of synths, computerized drums, and other electronic effects. of Montreal fans in the late 1990s and early 2000s would never have expected the sexed up funky dance glam Kevin started writing in the mid-2000s. He also went from singing about the innocence of love, to made-up fantasy characters, and eventually his own personal life, mental health, and relationships in painful detail. And now he’s even branched into folk/country influenced music and prog noise rock that reminds me of the sound of the Boston T going around a corner (check out the middle of “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission”).
One main impetus for creating this playlist is my belief that the band is highly underrated. of Montreal’s 2007 favorite Hissing Fauna is treated like the one shining gem in the band’s discography and is worshipped by critics who then proceed to mostly disregard the other albums. While Hissing Fauna certainly is a gem, it also certainly is not the only one. From Kevin’s sad unrequited love songs during his period of near celibacy as a young 20-something, to his ridiculously wordy lyrics that he somehow manages to pull off, to the hypersexed dance tracks of his “Georgie Fruit” glam era, his versatile vocal range and falsetto, his killer bass writing skills, and his heartwrenchingly beautiful acoustic songs and covers (check out his cover of The Everly Brothers’ “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)”), there’s always something special about his music. Kevin can make great traditional verse and chorus pop songs and also wacky collages of song segments, as in Skeletal Lamping. I suppose I am biased since of Montreal is one of my favorite artists, but regardless, every song provides something compelling, whether it be catchiness, personal revelation, or truly novel musical experimentation.
Happy birthday, Kevin, and happy listening, readers!
* Yes, this is a very long playlist; please feel free to skip something and move on to the next song if you aren’t really feeling it.