Kevin Barnes is a generous, generous man. Earlier this year, Of Montreal released Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? to much acclaim (myself included), while the group also released an extra EP’s worth of material titled Icons, Abstract Thee in limited quantities to be sold on tour and packaged it with pre-orders of the album. I considered buying one myself, but must have forgotten somehow. My loss, right? So I thought. But it turns out the EP is seeing wider commercial release through Polyvinyl, thus satiating the fans whose luck ran out when the limited edition EPs did. Like I said, Barnes is a generous fella.
Though Icons is something of a companion piece to Fauna, it’s by no means the more accessible, more easily digestible 20 minute li’l buddy. Like many limited releases, the material here often sounds like b-sides, not because the songs aren’t as good, but that they’re more obscured and disjointed, less prone to group singalongs than tracks like “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse.” Yet the (presumably) autobiographical “Du Og Meg” is a rather catchy pop ditty, musically similar to Sunlandic Twins era OM, with vocal melodies that oddly recall Belle and Sebastian’s “If You’re Feeling Sinister” at times.
“Voltaic Crusher” which was also released as a single last year, is the one song that sounds like a Fauna outtake. Over dancey beats and a good share of heavy synths, Barnes lays his self-loathing on pretty thick, whether it’s “I’m a flaw/ I’m a mistake” or “baby, I hardly exist.” The catchy melody and upbeat arrangement makes it seem like much less of a bummer than it actually is though. “Derailments in a Place of Our Own” opens with a bit of grandeur but succumbs to an understated acoustic sound, as does “Miss Blonde Your Papa is Failing.” Taking up about half of the entire EP is final track “No Conclusion,” a 9-minute monster in the vein of “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” but more flamboyant and with more movements.
Icons is a bi-polar animal, soaring to great heights and plummeting to defeating lows, but sounding stellar in either situation, personal narratives or diary entries getting their due with great melodic feats on either side. Prolificacy has always worked in Of Montreal’s favor, and all I can say is keep it coming.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.