A Collection for the Insiders
Daughter of Cloud is, in one word, erratic. Undisciplined or turbulent could work as well. This compilation album, amassed from rare tracks and recordings culled from the band’s repertoire over the past five years, is an amalgamation of mercurial, experimental tracks that, while at times enjoyable and interesting, lack the spark of frontman Kevin Barnes’s best songwriting.
After the high point of 2007’s iconic Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, its companion disc Icons, Abstract Thee, and 2008’s Skeletal Lamping, the band’s music veered away from the conventional structure of verses and choruses used on these albums, almost imploding on itself in a cacaphonous crash of dance tunes and neo-psychedelic rock. While the opening track “Our Love is Senile” sounds much like the band’s last few albums, with its bright pseudo-disco guitars, walking bass line, and typical tongue-in-cheek witticisms, other songs sound more like a sonic train wreck, like the percussive “Steppin’ Out,” which features over-the-top lyrics and a whole lot of attitude. It’s funny, and the one time you get to hear Kevin Barnes (almost) rap, but it’s still difficult to listen to.
Much of the album falls into either of these two categories; “Sails, Hermaphroditic” has everything from the Hissing Fauna era, from its frenetic disco synths and turbocharged falsetto vocals to its hypersexualized, erotic lyrics, as does “Jan Doesn’t Like It” and “Obviousatonicnuncio.” Tracks like “Alter Eagle,” on the other hand, are disorganized, their disparate sounds and genres mingling into something that’s not quite cohesive, but scatterbrained, discordant, like “Subtext Read, Nothing New.” They’re songs only a diehard of Montreal fan could truly appreciate.
One of the album’s best and most uncharacteristic moments is “Feminine Effects,” a ballad featuring rich piano and lovely vocals from Rebecca Cash. It’s a downtempo duet, and completely different from the album, with slide guitars giving it a subtle twang. “Noir Blues to Tinnitus” also strikes off the beaten path: it’s largely instrumental, slow, a song about the end of a relationship with an unusually pensive, sad tone that somehow makes it sound more honest than anything else on the record. And while both of these tracks are entirely anomalous here, it might be an indication of a new direction for Barnes and his bandmates to try, something new to which they could put their cleverness and experimental spirit.