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|1. Doing Nothing|
|2. Old People in the Cemetery|
|3. Isn't It Nice?|
|4. Jennifer Louise|
|5. The Blank Husband Epidemic|
|6. Pancakes for One|
|7. We Are Destroying the Song|
|8. An Ode to the Noctural Muse|
|9. Predictably Sulking Sara|
|10. Natalie and Effie in the Park|
|11. A Question for Emily Foreman|
|12. Kissing in the Grass|
|13. Kid Without Claws|
|14. Death Dance of Omipapas and Songs for You|
Of Montreal return to their very beginnings on their oddly named fifth album, Aldhils Arboretum, abandoning all pretensions of constructing another Byzantine concept album as they did on their past three outings. As a result the quintet have made a stronger, more appealing record by simplifying their aesthetic--sounding much like they did on their 1997 debut, Cherry Peel--and creating 14 discrete, unrelated tableaus about some of the idiosyncratic characters from their native Athens, Georgia. Borrowing freely from the band's own autobiography, spiritual leader and main songwriter Kevin Barnes constructs a skewed pastoral scene in "Isn't It Nice" (about an actual exodus the band made to Clarke Country, Georgia, where four of the five members set up housekeeping in a community peopled with crotchety old women, inebriated neighbors, and suicidal deer), proving he can conjure rural characters just as compelling as the urban warriors Lou Reed described in "Walk on the Wild Side." Barnes blithely pens a story of a woman's love for her dog on "Natalie and Effie in the Park," only to turn around and write a paean to sleep, "An Ode to the Nocturnal Muse," in which he professes love for his bed, his pillow, and the dream state. However, snuggled underneath those cozy covers is a darker reality that slithers into your consciousness on the dark wings of an anxious organ fill, letting you know that the song--and the entire album, for that matter--is more Southern gothic than Southern comfort. --Jaan Uhelszki
Top Customer Reviews
It opens with the disjointedly bouncy "Doing Nothing," which fits the lead vocals like a four-fingered glove. Things improve somewhat with the clinky pop of "Old People in the Cemetary," which one-ups the "What a drag it is/getting old" with lines like "It must be hard to relate/after the world of your youth/totally evaporates."
There's a more garage-rocky vibe to songs like "Isn't It Nice?" and the ringingly percussive "We Are Destroying the Song." But hints of their older style peep out in the second half of the album, like in the lilting "Predictably Sulking Sarah," perky piano-pop "Natalie and Effie in the Park," and the psychedelic swirls of "Kid Without Claws."
It's hard to know why, after the glorious psychedelic tapesties they've woven, Of Montreal would opt for a sound that is so... ordinary. It sounds a bit like garage rockers on acid, which is a cool idea in itself -- but Kevin Barnes and Co. sound pretty uncomfortable with such a stripped-down sound.
Their colorful pop has been toned down to some slightly muffled guitar melodies and solid percussion, augmented by cello and some electronic flourishes. But in the second half, the band starts slipping back -- they use a drooping violin, sprightly piano, robotic vocals, odd wavery keyboard, and a sort of French folk-club sound, complete with brass. That's more like it, people.Read more ›
There aren't too many clunker songs on this CD, which makes it very listenable from beginning to end. Even the lower quality songs like Isn't it Nice? and A Question for Emily Foreman have charm. What holds me back from giving this album the 5 star rating and my highest recommendation is the lack of some truly brilliant songs. Doing Nothing could be a pop hit if Of Montreal ever wanted that kind of thing, and Kid Without Claws brings me back for repeated listens. They just don't set off bells in my head like some of their better songs from earlier CDs.
That said, Aldhils Arboretum is worth buying for existing fans and those drawn by their curiosity.Read more ›
The songs here, in perfect Kevin Barnes style, are still as sweet, colorful, and twisty as licorice whips. But where their last few albums utilized crates of Crayola color, making each song fan out like fractal "oil puddles in taffeta patterns" (to steal a line from Joni Mitchell), the songs on this record are leaner, colored with fewer crayons, pressing harder. This is an aggressively guitar-and-buzzing-organ oriented record, and easily their most "rock". The conceptual ideas of the last few records have also been shed, giving the record a somewhat haphazard, random feel, lacking the strong collective identities of "The Gay Parade" or "Coquelicot." That said, the absence of an overarching story brings the individual songs more into focus, and these are some of the greatest songs they've come up with yet.
I was a bit taken aback by some of the lyrics on this record, particularly "Old People in the Cemetary." It's a good song, but an unusually mean-spirited and condescending missive from a normally good-natured and open-hearted songwriter. The lyrics of "Isn't it Nice?Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Kevin and David Barnes, the musician and the artist, respectively, have put together many fun, artsy, pop albums. Aldhils Arboretum is more of the same. Read morePublished on June 30 2003 by Blackberries
this had no cute little songs that i could fall in love with, sadly. like montreal on cherry peel or dustin hoffmans wife... on the 4 track sessions. sadness of my heartsoul. Read morePublished on Feb. 11 2003 by Jamey
First of all, download track one (Doing Nothing). If you like that song, buy this album as the rest will certainly appeal to you. Read morePublished on Oct. 13 2002 by C. Jaycox
This almost shouldn't be done. Of Montreal made two incredible, full, beautiful albums: "The Gay Parade" and "Asleep in a Coliquet [sic] of Poppies" Those albums seemed very... Read morePublished on Oct. 8 2002 by Vlad