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Monday, September 01, 2008

The Top 40 Songs By Of Montreal

After eight weeks of counting down, it's time to bring this list to a close.  Here is the Top 40 in its entirety.
#40: "Nicki Lighthouse" from the album, Horse and Elephant Eatery (No Elephants Allowed) (2000) - This was one of the first songs by Of Montreal that I ever heard. It drew me in with its nonsensical lyrics about "the strangest girl that's ever been" who has a bad habit of eating her dinner on her ceiling and wallpapering the floor. But what really did it for me is the song's sing-along coda of "I'm a big fan/ Nicki Lighthouse/ You know that I am!" It's a fun song to pull you out of whatever sort of funk you may be in, as most good Of Montreal songs do.

#39: "Tim, I Wish You Were Born a Girl" from the album, Cherry Peel (1997) - Of Montreal's first album is kind of a mixed bag. There are some true gems, and others that just don't do it for me at all. This song is one of the better tracks from that album. It really help set the whimsical, carefree tone that many of their later albums would take and was one of the first times that listeners had reason to question Kevin Barnes' sexuality.

#38: "Let's Go For a Walk" from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - "Let's Go For a Walk" is not nearly as wonderful by itself as it is in the context of the album that it is on. Coquelicot tells the story of a fairy-like creature of the same name who falls asleep and goes on many adventures with imaginary characters. This song wraps up the album beautifully as a heartbreaking goodbye to all of her friends that she has made. It is one of the most beautiful songs that Kevin Barnes has ever written. The instrumentation is simply gorgeous, and the minimal lyrics are welcomed over his usual SAT word-filled verses.

#37: "Rose Robert" from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - Another one from Of Montreal's 2001 concept album, this song tells the story of Rose Robert, a strange character with whom the narrator loves to cross-dress and "gurgle and squeak" rather than speak. It's a zany song, even for this album (which mostly sounds like drug-induced circus music). Despite the claims of some that it's far too silly, there's actually a lot of cool guitar stuff going on in the right speaker, not to mention a beautiful piano solo and attractive vocal melody. This is one to sing along to when you're taking a long trip home in the middle of the night. It keeps you awake. Trust me, I know.

#36: "Go Call You Mine" - from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - This one only clocks in at 1:30, and yet it features probably more instruments than any other Of Montreal song. Kevin only sings for the last 30 seconds, leaving the first minute to be filled with one of the best instrumental performances on any Of Montreal album ever. It's a difficult song to describe, so I'll just let you listen to it. I hope you'll agree that it deserves a spot on this list.

#35: "Disconnect the Dots" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - So the scene goes something like this. I hear a few Of Montreal songs on the internet (from The Gay Parade, specifically) and decide, "Wow, that's really cool sounding. I think I'll go buy that album!" So I head out to my local record store, only to find that The Gay Parade is out of print. Boo! I pick up Satanic Panic in the Attic instead, never having heard a song. I pop it into my vehicle on the ride home and "BLAM!" I am an instant Of Montreal fan. This lead-off track to that album hooked me right in with its catchy lyrics and sweet harmonies. It came completely unexpected to me as I was expecting a whole lot more folksy, circus music. What I got was an electronic pop masterpiece and one of my favorite albums of the last decade or so.

#34: "Doing Nothing" from the album, Aldhils Arboretum (2002) - Though I'm no expert on popular opinion, I believe that their 2002 album, Aldhils Arboretum, is generally considered to be the worst of the bunch. I heartily disagree, however, and find that even though it is not quite as solid as their best, it is far from their worst. Another lead-off track, "Doing Nothing" sounds a bit like the Friends theme song before cascading into a wonderful indie pop treat. Kevin's lyrics are sing-along quality, as they usually are, but even more here than usual. Sure, the album is hit or miss, but this one will always give you a reason to pop in the ol' CD player.

#33: "So Begins Our Alabee" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - Whereas Satanic Panic merely hinted at the electronic pop direction that Kevin Barnes would take Of Montreal in the future, it wasn't until 2005 that fans actually found out what that would sound like: awesome. "So Begins Our Alabee" was the first track on The Sunlandic Twins that seemed to rely wholly on electronic instrumentation. Though there is some slight bass and electric guitar, the majority of this one is synth-based, with enough electronic drums and flutters to get anyone excited. A smart move by Kevin Barnes, as it made his then mostly-unknown band into one of the most-popular indie acts of the past few years. A T-Mobile commercial? Come on!

#32: "Sink the Seine" from the album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) - Leave it to me to place this overlooked "filler" track from last year's masterpiece on this list. The fact of the matter is that "Sink the Seine" remains one of the catchiest, most memorable tracks from Hissing Fauna. Not much else to say. I mean, it's only a minute long.

#31: "Du Og Meg" from the album, Icons, Abstract Thee EP (2007) - Ahh yes. What would an Of Montreal list be without mention of at least some of there EP-only tracks? The simple truth is that if you're only listening to the LPs, you're missing out on a lot of great songs. Where most artist will place throwaways on an EP, Kevin Barnes focuses more on the good songs that just didn't fit with the flow of his LPs. "Du Og Meg" is an absolutely fabulous track that takes Of Montreal back to its roots in that it tells a story of a couple characters. Of course, it's no "Jaques Lamure," but it's still one of the band's most infectious tracks. Worth mentioning, worth listing, worth listening to again and again.

#30: "I Was Never Young" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - When I first got my hands on The Sunlandic Twins back in 2005, I was excited to hear that the lead-off track "Requiem for O.M.M.2" showed a nice evolution of Of Montreal's sound. It wasn't until this song (track 2) that I realized that this was much more than an evolution, it was a revolution (oh yeah, I just went there). Caveman chants, mariachi trumpets, electronic drums...hell, this song has it all!

#29: "My Favorite Boxer" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - One of the many reasons why everyone should listen to The Gay Parade before calling themselves an Of Montreal fan, "My Favorite Boxer" is a charming, humorous story about a poor lad who idolizes a boxer named Hector Ormano. Feeling bad for someone has never been so joyous!

#28: "Eros' Entropic Tundra" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - Leave it to Kevin Barnes to name a song "Eros' Entropic Tundra" when the obvious and easy title would be "Sad Love" (yes, kiddies, that's this song). This was one of the first times that I ever heard an Of Montreal be kind of sad, and I loved it. It's heartfelt, earnest, and real which served as a nice break from all the necromancing and British tour diaries that overran the album. Of course, we would later get a whole heap of sad songs on Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? But in many ways, you never forget your first.

#27: "Penelope" from the album, Coquelecot Asleep In the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - Honestly, this is a really great song, thus explaining its spot on this list. But I fear that I might actually like Casper and the Cookies' cover version better. I'm sure if Kevin Barnes had dreamt up the song in 2007 that he would have come up with something eerily similar to what those guys did. Still, the original flows much better and feels a whole lot less gimmicky.

#26: "She's A Rejector" from the album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) - As great as this song is, I never realized the full extent of its awesomeness until I saw the band perform it live in January of 2007. This is one of the few songs that I've ever heard sound better live than it does on the album. That's not to detract from its greatness though, it's a blast to listen to, sing along to, and freak out to at the right moments ("I CAN'T, I CAN'T, I CAN'T, I CAN'T!!").

#25 - "Vegan in Furs" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - "Vegan in Furs" is probably the best album-ender in Of Montreal history. With a catchy melody, crazy guitars, and a sing-along quality coda (I think that's the second time I've used that phrase in the last 48 hours), this song is undeniably awesome. It drips with Of Montreal's trademark indie pop sound and Kevin Barnes' usually strange lyricism. It reminds me of the good times before Of Montreal turned into a group that 15-year old girls can dance like skanks to. For that, this song makes it to #25.

#24 - "Butterscotching Mr. Lynn" from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - At under 2 minutes long, it would be easy for many to overlook this great song. It perfectly captures Coquelicot's whimsical feel while remaining sane enough (for the most part) for even the most casual of listeners to dig it entirely. Again, I do tend to get a little sentimental when I listen to old classics like this one. It's so perfectly constructed, deep, and exciting, that it makes a fly beat and cool bass line seem like child's play. Not to completely trash Of Montreal's newer work, I love that stuff too. But there's just something about songs like "Butterscotching Mr. Lynn" that absolutely does it for me!

#23 - "An Epistle to a Pathological Creep" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (Japanese Bonus Tracks) (2004) - It's a little known song, sure, but it's an absolute blast to hear. When I first got wind of it, I was in college, so Barnes' rant about a guy who "speaks as if you should be taking notes" rang true with me. So many arrogant d-bags in college, and Kevin manages to nail every single one with his characterization of this pathological creep. Lovely! And because it's so rare, I've uploaded it for your listening enjoyment.

#22 - "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - Ahh, the song that made Of Montreal into a household name. While it's true that the Outback Steakhouse commercials really ruined hope of me every liking this song to the same degree that I did when I first heard it, nothing can erase the first time I popped The Sunlandic Twins into my CD player and jammed to this song on repeat. Hell, it was even on Cloverfield! Yes, my favorite little band has grown up and starred in T-Mobile commercials, mostly due to this song. Make no mistakes, it is a brilliant piece of pop music, and one that is oddly relatable.

#21 - "The Problem With April" from the album, Horse and Elephant Eatery (No Elephants Allowed) (2000) - This may or may not have been the first Of Montreal song that I ever heard, I can't remember. But what is important is that it's an amazing song that captures the heartbreak and hopelessness of being dumped, but does so with an amazingly upbeat, parade-march song. The lyrics are easily rememberable (Actual word? Spell check thinks so.) and easily some of Barnes' catchiest to date. And hey, who doesn't love New York in June? Besides radical Muslims...

#20: "The Actor's Opprobrium" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins Bonus EP (2005) - If there was ever a reason to reach deep into that Sunlandic Twins case of yours and pull out the bonus EP that's tucked away nicely, this song would be it. The story of a poor chap who is honored to star in the great master's snuff film, only to find out that all blessings come with a consequence. The line of, "I want to be a star, but that's going to far," could probably be slapped on the t-shirt of every young hopeful out in Hollywood who wants to be taken seriously as an actor, but is probably more suited for pornography, or snuff as the case would be. Semantics, really.

#19: "Suffer for Fashion" from the album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) - Of all the danceable songs that Of Montreal has made over the past 5 years, none fit the mold better than "Suffer for Fashion," the lead-off track to their most recent album. The first time I heard it was at a show about a year before the album came out and - whoah - totally blown away. Keep that click clicking at 130 bpm, guys. I wouldn't have it any other way!

#18: "Oslo in the Summertime" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - Containing what is arguably one of the catchiest, most endearing basslines of the last decade (at the very least), "Oslo in the Summertime" is the audible embodiment of "cool." Linguistically, that may not make a lick of sense, but I think long time readers ought to be able to follow. The simple truth is that this song just makes you want to slick your hair back, throw on your shades and leather jacket, shove that comb in your back pocket and point at random people in tempo. Or maybe that's just me. Either way...great song!

#17: "Lysergic Bliss" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - Let's go back, once again, to right around the time that I first heard Of Montreal. Satanic Panic in the Attic was my very first album of theirs to own, and I bought it without ever hearing one of its songs (I was more familiar with The Gay Parade). So at the time, I still wasn't completely sold on the band. But by the time this song came around (Track 2, I believe) I was completely sold! More specifically, it Kevin Barnes playing the role of dozens of schoolchildren and harmonizing with himself that sold me on the band. The rest is history. Boring, boring history.

#16: "Chrissy Kiss the Corpse" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - In 2004 I was driving back from the ghetto, where I had just received my first tattoo, and a friend was in the back seat - completely high if I recall correctly. Suddenly, this song starts playing on my stereo and I hear a faint voice from the back seat, "There's soooooo much going on." I turn around to see my tranquil friend wide-eyed in amazement. That's what I think about every time I hear this song. Strange sure, but I always love how we can connect certain songs to different moments or times in our lives. That's the magic of music, I suppose.

#15: "Old Familiar Way" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - Once again, I'm having fond memories of some of the first Of Montreal songs that I ever heard. This lead-off track to The Gay Parade deals with being bored with everyday life. Stuff that used to amaze you now leaves you wanting more, the life you live leave you unfulfilled. It's the perfect setup to the zany world of The Gay Parade, with a cast of characters so expansive that you loose yourself in it and forget about your world entirely.

#14: "Nickee Coco and the Invisible Tree" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - There's something so intensely magical and unforgettable about this song. No matter how many times I listen to it, I'm completely captivated by the story of a young girl who climbs up an invisible tree, falls asleep, and disappears. As the townspeople rally together to locate her whereabouts an owl flies by and spots young Nickee Coco, eventually leading to her discovery by friends and family. The final chorus is emphatic and celebratory, and it gets me every time. "We love you Nickee Coco/ We were so sad when we thought we lost you!" I still get goosebumps.

#13: "The Miniature Philosopher" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - I'm really on quite the Gay Parade kick here aren't I? Hey, it's an awesome record! Can you blame me? This song is one of the more charming tracks from that album, about a tiny philosopher whom nobody takes seriously due to his short stature. It's a bit sad to hear about his continual failures in philosophy and how he continues his quest to become famous, but then again, who doesn't enjoy hearing about the woes of pompous, precocious philosophers?

#12: "Voltaic Crusher/Undrum to Muted Da" from the album, Icons, Abstract Thee EP (2007) - While not the longest or most inventive song in the Of Montreal catalogue, Kevin Barnes' depressing and self-depreciating break-up song is definitely one of the catchiest. The simple line of "You gave me a hand/I gave you a fist/Please don't lose any sleep over me, baby/I hardly exist" has been stuck in my head so many times over the last year, that it's getting to be quite ridiculous.

#11: "Good Morning, Mr. Edminton" from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - The lead-off track to Of Montreal's weirdest album to date also happens to be the most enjoyable song to sing along with - definitely in their collection, but maybe ever! Countless hours I have wasted singing "Tip toe down the spiral stairs and just before the cellar door you'll see a picture of a juggler. Touch his nose and that will open up the secret corridor. Take the ladder at the end up to the street and run as fast as you can!" Grab a friend and make them sing harmony. Trust me. It doesn't get any better than this.

#10: "Fun Loving Nun" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - It's a sad day in the world when people no longer listen to music and smile.  So much of the music that infiltrates the lives of young people today is "hard" and "edgy," and kids try to relate to that without realizing that the purpose of music has always been to entertain.  But I shudder to think of someone hearing "Fun Loving Nun" and not smiling.  1.)  I doubt it's possible, and 2.) if it is possible, the person in question might be getting brutally murdered.  That's the only thing I can think of that would keep me from not smiling when hearing this one.

#9:  "Requiem for O.M.M.2" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - The lead-off track to Of Montreal's breakthrough album has everything that I love about the band:  a catchy melody, an infectious groove, and roots in 60s pop music.  Those two chords before Kevin sings, "I never ever stopped wondering," just make me want to air guitar so hard.  Only thing is, it would be a pretty lame air guitar session, what with just two mediocre arm movements.  So I refrain.  But you have to admit, that's a pretty catchy guitar part.

#8:  "Don't Ask Me to Explain" from the album, Cherry Peel (1997) - There's a line in this song that has had me since the very first time I heard it.  It goes, "I'd like to marry all of my close friends/ Live in a big house together by an angry sea," and I always thought that was a perfect image.  Life is so complicated, so complex, but this line makes you imagine a much simpler existence.  Back in the day when I first heard it, it seemed like a pretty good idea.  These days I'm more content to live on some private compound where we each have houses and families.  A little strange, sure, but things could definitely be worse.

#7:  "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse" from the album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) - "Heimdalsgate" is the perfect example of what Kevin Barnes is absolutely brilliant at, namely taking a serious subject matter and turning into an infectious pop song that you simply can't shake.  Who would've ever thought they'd be jumping up and down at a rock show yelling "Come on chemica-uh-uh-uh-uh-als?"  That's what made Hissing Fauna such an amazing record, the fact that it could tackle such downer material but still be one of the year's best pop records.  Who else could do that?

#6:  "My British Tour Diary" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - This is an amazingly fun song to sing to, especially when those "eee" harmonies kick in.  It's got everything you could want in a song; British jokes, a catchy melody, bitchin' guitars, amazing harmonies, a Gary Glitter reference, and about 5 seconds of "the most truly repelling techno music ever made."  Classic Of Montreal - funny, catchy, and musically impressive.

#5:  "Faberge Falls for Shuggie" from the album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) - Take note, those of you haven't heard Skeletal Lamping yet.  If you didn't like this song from Of Montreal's 2007 masterpiece, you will probably have a tough time adjusting to the new stuff.  Barnes' transformation into Georgie Fruit on Hissing Fauna was shocking and a great change of pace, on Skeletal Lamping it's a force to be reckoned with.  The thing I love about this song is all the different things going on, all the different movements that it contains, the wide array of things that Barnes does with his voice, with the instrumentation, with the programming.  It's simply a stunning example of the heights that Barnes is capable of attaining.

#4:  "Jacques Lamure" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - Barnes' story of a volunteer firefighter with rotten luck is easily the most charming song he's ever written.  In just a few minutes, you're introduced to a character, sympathize with him, fall in love with him, and celebrate with him as he breaks free from the shackles of his small town.  It's storytelling at its absolute best, and the fact that its a pop song makes it all the more impressive.  

#3:  "The Party's Crashing Us Now" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - Admit it, you memorized the claps to "The Party's Crashing Us Now" and you clap along with it almost every time you hear it.  You sing along with the melodies and the harmonies.  You question what the "elevator trick" is, and you have no idea what two black wizards would look like when making love, but you'd love to find out.  I'm right there with you, friend.

#2:  "Jennifer Louise" from the album, Aldhils Arboretum (2002) - It never fails.  Each time I go to an Of Montreal show, I desperately wait for the band to start playing this quaint little song from possibly their least-admired album and they always disappoint me.  It has yet to happen, and I totally get it.  Why play a song to an album that no one bought, that none of your new-found fans want to hear?  It makes sense.  I just wish it didn't.  "Jennifer Louise" easily made it into the Top 5 for a very good reason, and that's because it's simply too wonderful to not honor in such a way.  Now if only the band would do it the honor of playing it the next time they stroll through town. (Note to the band:  If you happen to google yourself and stumble upon this post, know that the town I'd like you to play it in is Houston, TX.  You're scheduled to stroll through on November 12, 2008 and it'd be a treat if you played this song.  Also, "Fun Loving Nun" would probably be pretty bitchin' as well.)

#1:  "Rapture Rapes the Muses" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - I've yet to show this song to a person who has not fallen under its spell of awesomeness.  My sister who despises most of the music that I listen to became an Of Montreal fan by hearing this song, my friend who swears off of indie music entirely has made an exception for Of Montreal - you guessed it - because of this song.  Personally, I was already hooked on Of Montreal before I ever came across this gem of a song.  However, it was this one song that sealed the deal, that made them my favorite band.  Who would've thought singing "La la la" could be so much fun?  And to me, that's what Of Montreal has always been about; finding fun in unsuspecting places.  
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That concludes this very long, and according to some, tedious list.  Thank you for taking the time to read it, and don't forget to buy a copy of Skeletal Lamping when it releases on October 7, 2008.

13 comments:

Gary said...

I have to share this with you because I don't know anyone else who will understand my excitement...

oF MONTREAL ARE COMING TO NEW ZEALAND!!!!!!! I GET TO SEE THEM!!!!!!

I'm kind of excited.

Cale said...

Don't miss it Gary. Their new show is mind-blowing.

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