A Patch Of My Childhood

treesBehind my mom and dad’s house, the 1,070 sq ft brick ranch I grew up in, is a patch of my childhood. A weathered and shadowed two acres of gnarled, twisted pines where I would disappear on hot summer afternoons. This is where I would pretend to be on the forest moon of Endor battling the Empire after devouring Return of the Jedi for the 15th time. It would also double as the grizzled German countryside as friends and I fought the Nazis after watching The Guns of Navarone. We’d gather limbs and make lean-tos and hide in their claustrophobic shelter hoping someone, anyone, would walk by and not notice we were there.

As I got older someone made a bike track in that patch of my childhood. There were dips and dirt ramps and long runs that let you build up speed. There was one jump I never would do out of fear of breaking my neck. Red, yellow, and blue dirt bikes made their presence known in those woods. Chromed-out pedal warriors shot through the stagnant air among those weathered pines, vying for the best trick. I liked being back there, as it felt like we were riding in an indoor track. Like nature decided to move indoors. The trees were dense enough that even rain rarely penetrated the tightly knit limbs and their prickly appendages.

I remember the older kids heading into those woods. This was when that forest was much larger,denser, and foreboding. It extended for several acres back to where light rarely made its presence known. But in the distance you could see a glowing orange inside the heart of the forest. Teenagers would make a fire and go back and smoke, drink, and do those things I wasn’t allowed to watch in R-rated movies(the movies my parents would watch after I went to bed.) I can remember my mom and the neighbor marching back into the thick of it and telling those kids to go home, but not before staying and making them put the fire out. My mom called a few of them by name as they lived in a nearby neighborhood and were my older brother’s age.

mom, chris and john henry with tomatoesThere was a network of trails in those woods, too. They led from one end of the woods to the other. They ran both north and south and east and west. I used the trails to navigate to friends’ houses. Chris lived to the east, while Jay lived to the west. My next door neighbor had direct access to the trails, while I had to either jump the fence or use his yard to get to them. When I was a little older a large chunk of trees were cut down and a road was paved in the woods. Homes were built. This cut the woods into sections. It also created a ditch that separated our patch of woods from the rest of the forest. I always imagined it to be a moat. When it rained hard the ditch would get a little water build up, and I’d imagine a creature swimming in the water waiting to take us under and devour us.

We would often venture to the far north end of the woods, as it felt like uncharted territory. On one of those adventures we found the remains of an old Corvette. It had to have been early 60s by the body style. I often wondered how did it get there? Who left it? Why would someone keep a wrecked sports car in the forest? Had someone died in that Chevy convertible? It was a mystery that was never solved. We also found in the center of the forest an old field fence. Like something that would be erected to keep cattle from wandering off. An old wire metal fence that reminded me of pictures I’d seen of World War One. It made me think of men cowering in fear of their life as they’re being shot at by the enemy. It also seemed strange to think why someone would put a fence up in the middle of the woods. It was likely there before the woods. Maybe there was a farm there at the turn of the century. And tiny pine trees were planted around it.

mom in backyard with Miller LiteAs I got older that patch of woods was a place I’d go to just be alone. The neighbor kids were long gone and it was just me. I’d listen to my Walkman and walk along the trails, thinking about a girl that broke my heart or a girl that would eventually break my heart. With more homes built, the mystique was slowly drifting away. Civilization was taking over. A place to hide among the trees was vanishing. My cousin would come over in the summer and stay a week. We’d head out around 9pm and walk on the road that went through the woods. There were only a handful of streetlights back there as there were only a handful of homes built. In the dusk hours the woods transformed back to the mysterious dark world it once was. It became alive. It became intimidating and alluring once again.

Nowadays I still see that patch of my childhood as I take my afternoon walks. It’s merely a shadow of what it used to be, consumed by suburbia’s black hole of consumerism, browning lawns, and colorful sheds. The trees have been dressed in a thick fashion of ivy, moss, and time. The forest floor a tapestry of dead limbs, pine needles, poison oak and sumac. The brush now so thick that not even a game of “war” or hide and seek would be possible. There still remains two of the trails that I once rode my bike on and attempted to keep clear of sticks. The view is much different, though. No more tunnels of pine or pockets of quiet. No longer are there trees strong enough to climb and hide in. There’s no vast depth or feeling of isolation. There are no kids running through woods shooting cap guns or pretending their dirt bikes are speeder bikes. No moon of Endor or warring factions of 9-year olds.

It’s just a patch of my childhood, fading like the memories it holds.

 

D Ferren : Trials And Dusty Trails

by Mary Moore

Photo by Ryan Hodges Photography

Mary Moore is a supporter of the arts. She’s a giver of sunshine and a purveyor of the whimsical as well. She also loves music. Especially music of the local variety. She used to host both local and touring musicians at her home in the town of New Haven, Indiana. “House shows” as we like to call them around here. My wife and I even went to one years ago. It was local music maestro Mark Hutchins with Michigan-based Small Houses. It was a lovely time. 

Mary recently took a shot at feature writing and her subject was Fort Wayne-based singer/songwriter D Ferren of D Ferren and the Sad Bastards. She was looking for a place to publish her piece and I thought what better place than right here? So here we are. Grab a cup of coffee, take a seat, and read on. – J Hubner

 

Sometimes our heroes are armed with guitars, lyrical dexterity, and a compelling band of compatriots. I find fascination in any artist’s or hero’s journey, and was pleased to interview and get to know Midwest musician Dwane Ferren of D Ferren and the Sad Bastards. Ferren shared his story of the trials and dusty trails that lead us to the release of his upcoming album Something Like Forever.

Ferren hails from small-town Indiana and his musical road map trails Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and the surrounding smaller communities. Ah, the lesser-known parts of the Midwest, where singer/songwriter Damien Jurado once remarked at a Fort Wayne, Indiana B-Side show, “I like coming to these types of towns. People outside of Chicago and Seattle like good music too!” Fort Wayne is also where local music producer, creator, and longtime Dwane Ferren music collaborator Jason Davis gets us to the final product via his Off The Cuff Sound recording studio, but not before lending a “practiced listening ear” and suggestive instrumentation. This is where lessons about pluck and a driven form of musical madness come thanks to a Ferren’s musical compatriot named Jethro Easyfields.

Ferren’s sound is self-described as “alt-country” when he is pressed to do so. His vocal lilts recall the most earnest versions of Social Distortion and Love Spit Love performances. The arrangements of the songs feel at times like dead-slow-rock-n’-roll with a twang for good measure, or straightforward indie rock, and purposefully walks the line between the best of 70’s and 90’s buzzy singer/songwriter guitar-driven ballads. The straightforward-meets-coy songwriting style matches up with Ferren’s conversations about music and the world. Songs on Something Like Forever are genuine expressions of sentiments and discursions in the life of Dwane Ferren. On the title track to the album, he declares, “I say ‘sorry’ if I mean it and look guilty if I really am.” But before we can understand the songwriter, we must understand the man.

Our protagonist grew up in Summitville Indiana, plucking on an acoustic guitar as a pre-teen. His rock-n-roll spirit prevailed after he quit his stodgy music shop guitar lessons, and blessedly amplified when he received an electric guitar for high school graduation. He fell into the songwriting lifestyle soon afterAt the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ferren met a group of musicians called The Jesters. This young band of cohorts sold original music to fund special education programs. One member, a resident advisor, would record the musicians on a 4-track recorder in exchange for guitar lessons. The group’s less conventional unofficial music preserver, Jethro Easyfields, hid a recorder in his room to ensure that late-night genius in the form of spontaneous collaborations would not be forgotten. Ferren, being encouraged to write and perform so often stirred his desire to serve the song and find his own musical mission.

Saint of Life and the Morning After Cavalier was Ferren’s first solo album, recorded with his friend Jason Davis (the same Jason Davis of Off the Cuff Sound and frontman/driving force in the band Streetlamps for Spotlights.) Songs were written in the raw moment about death, divorce and reaching one’s breaking points. “Probably,” Ferren admits, “if I went to therapy, I never would have written those songs.” 

As a happier person now, Ferren has the challenge of writing in earnest without the immediacy of tragic life events that had formerly projected his sorrow-driven pen across paper in prose. For Something Like Forever he had to make himself write in a stream-of-conscious method or he used tricks and techniques from other songwriters he admired such as Elvis Costello. The appreciation for past transgressions and emotional aches provides depth and a karmic equality for new songs about balance, concepts of family roles, and musical compulsions. 

Nowadays, Ferren’s aim for his music is to win you over with what he has to say. “If I was removed from the world now, I’m hoping people could listen to the songs and say, ‘Okay. This is what this guy was about. This is what he was going through.’ I try to have great songs that have substance.” He supposes that not everyone may like his “unconventional” voice and sound, then charmingly edges his way in by acknowledging that anyone who seeks out original music is in the venue for the same reasons he is. He hints at the possibility of side projects with the likes of prolific songwriter Mark Hutchins, Midwest record store tours, and dreams of recording with writer/musician J Hubner. A more immediate goal is to share the experience of his journey within the realms of Something Like Forever.

Something Like Forever comes out on September 30th, 2016 and will be available through Bandcamp, CD Baby, and Spotify digitally. CDs will be available through Bandcamp, or buy one directly from D Ferren at one of his shows. 

Connect with D Ferren through Bandcamp and Facebook.

Of Montreal : Innocence Reaches

Kevin Barnes has played many roles in his nearly 20 year music career. There wasof montreal the folksy pop guy, the jilted lover, the struggling husband and father, the party monster, the transvestite hooker, the avante garde composer, and the rock and roll warrior. But the role Barnes plays best is Kevin Barnes. The guy that’s always reaching for something else. The wanderer. The confused, elegant philistine that tows the line between masculine and feminine. That’s the role Kevin Barnes was born to play, and his best albums have shown us that side of him. Albums like Satanic Panic In The Attic, The Gay Parade, Sunlandic Twins, HIssing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer, and Skeletal Lamping had Barnes searching for meaning in sexuality, monogamy, adultery, faith, matrimony, and fatherhood. His one-two masterpieces, 2007s Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer and 2008s Skeletal Lamping had Barnes in a mental spiral, struggling with the isolation of being a husband and father and simultaneously embracing and rejecting those identities. The results were a claustrophobic pastiche of both a mental breakdown and the drugs that helped to cope with it(Hissing Fauna), and the eventual “Screw it” declaration and giving into his darker proclivities by creating some hedonistic transvestite party monster to help him work through those desires a sane person keeps hidden deep down in their psyche(Skeletal.)

It’s rare we go more than 18 months without some sort of musical artifact from Of Montreal, and just 17 months after Aureate Gloom was released, Barnes has presented us with Innocence Reaches. Barnes seems to have found the world of EDM as his musical conduit and it fits him well. Not that he hasn’t delved into electronic music in the past, but this record seems to embrace more of a modern sound as opposed to the self-made sounds he’s used in the past.

“How do you identify/How do you I.D/Are you something fashion wild?/Talk to me, talk, talk, talk to me” opens the album on “Let’s Relate”, which is a stunning introduction into this new world Of Montreal resides in. The song is a statement in figuring out who one is and how we fit into the world around us. The discussion of gender identity has been a huge topic the last couple of years(RFRA, anyone??), so this song feels particularly poignant. “It’s Different For Girls” comes roaring in like a party freight train. It has the flow and musical moves Barnes has delivered in the past but with a lighter tone. He sounds like he’s having more fun this time around. “Gratuitous Abysses” sounds like something left over from Aureate Gloom with it’s punky guitar and Richard Hell-ish manic delivery. “My Fair Lady” is low key and a little dark with talk about self-cutting and sharing this behavior in photo form. Musically there’s a mix of Sunlandic Twins plastic funk and more recent dirty disco grooves. “A Sport And A Pastime” is quite stunning in it’s claustrophobic techno and lovelorn lyrics. “Ambassador Bridge” is a groove-fronted song that plays past and present dance tropes that work together quite well while Barnes makes it his own. “Nursing Slopes” is another classic Of Montreal song, steeped in a loping groove and melancholy vocal moves that Barnes is quite adept at.

I think the biggest problem here is that Barnes didn’t go all in when it came to the EDM side of things. He peppers the album with bits of past accomplishments when I think he should’ve just given in to the that “Special K” high and let the dance floor take him where it may. While tracks like “Gratuitous Abysses”, Les Chants De Maldoror”, “Def Pacts”, and “Chaos Arpeggiating” are great Of Montreal tunes, they seem to divert from the EDM theme. An Of Montreal EP would’ve been a great home for those tunes.

Innocence Reaches is yet another example of the endless worlds that live and take residency in Kevin Barnes’ head. It has moments of absolute brilliance, and the rest is still pretty damn good. See you in a year and a half, Kevin.

7.9 out of 10

 

Simon Belmont Blues

I remember it like it was yesterday(or maybe last week.) I spent a week at myCastlevania-image4 uncle Mark’s house in the summer of 1987. I went straight from the last day of school to his place where we’d hang out, eat junk food, and play video games. What I didn’t know was that my older brother was also heading over, though later in the evening after he got off of work. It was three dudes hanging out, stuffing their faces with pizza, watching horror movies, and playing NES games till the wee hours of the morning(I recall one night where my brother and I stayed up till my uncle got up to go to work the next morning playing 1942…oh, to be young again.) We’d rise around noon, eat a bologna sandwich, and do it all again. My brother and I would pile into his 1977 Cutlass and cruise over to the Concord Mall when we’d get bored. He bought Metallica’s Master Of Puppets on cassette that week, which then began my love of thrash and speed metal. We’d already gotten into Megadeth, Anthrax, and Suicidal Tendencies by then, but hearing “Battery” for the first time solidified the appreciation for all things heavy, loud, and scary for me. It was a week of learning, growing, eating, sleeping, and more eating and sleeping.

14017663_1066668100107102_1069778144_nOne night after my uncle got home from work he said he wanted to run over to the mall because there was an NES game he’d heard about and thought we might have fun playing it. We jumped in his car and headed to Kay Bee Toys and my uncle picked up what would end up being one of my all-time favorite video games. It was called Castlevania, and up to this point I was only a video game fan from a distance. Mostly because my parents refused to buy my brother and I a system, but also because I could never find a game that enthralled me enough to get obsessed with it. I’d rather be doing something else than sitting and playing digital basketball or riding a pixelated bike. I’d find out that Castlevania was different. We got home, popped it into the NES and what we found was another world. A Gothic realm where we played the protagonist Simon Belmont as he traveled the many layers and levels of Count Dracula’s castle, searching for the King of the undead himself. Each level has a boss you must defeat, and with each level defeated the bosses got harder(well, duh!). You battle Frankenstein and Igor, Mummy men, a giant bat, Medusa, the Grim Reaper, and then finally the big guy himself, Dracula.

The game immediately sucked me in and we spent the remainder of that week sinking into an NES abyss. I can only imagine we all looked like a bunch of bums sitting around in 2 day old clothes, hair a mess, and empty containers of bologna cascading from the trash can. It didn’t matter, because we had a goal: defeat Dracula. The game’s colors were bright and popped out of the screen, and the music was just as intense. For the time, it felt like an 8-bit symphony. All baroque and melancholy with intense bursts of energy when the game called for it. This was a game that begged to be played for hours and hours. Before Castlevania, games seemed to geared to either little kids or sports people. Nothing really combined horror with platform gameplay like that before. The goals were simple; walk along, whip the ghouls and monsters, collect hearts and extra weapons, kill the bosses, and don’t die. For me, this was the ultimate gaming experience. We didn’t beat Dracula that week, but we got pretty damn close.

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Back cover artwork by Becky Cloonan

There were other games that came afterwards that tickled my fancy; games like Kid Icarus, Trojan, Contra, and even a couple Castlevania sequels were fun and had a similar approach to gameplay, but none hit me like the original Castlevania. After finding a glitch in the game where the system would freeze up as you threw the death blow at the Grim Reaper(the last boss before Dracula), I figured out if you paused the game just as you entered Death’s lair and let it sit for a few minutes the game would have a much less chance of freezing. I beat the game finally, and life in the village turned peaceful once again.

Many years later(30 to be exact), I see that Mondo is releasing a 10 inch of the soundtrack to the original NES Castlevania with beautiful new artwork by Becky Cloonan. The first thought that pops into my head is “I must own that.” Why do I need to own a 10″ record with 8-bit music from a 30 year old video game? Why would a 42 year old man need something like that? Let me explain something to you, there is no “why?” when it comes to your childhood. There is no “why?” when it comes to nostalgia. There is only “because”. There is only “mind your business, pal.” Am I going to be throwing this thing on the turntable every couple of days and pretend whip at imaginary ghouls as the chiptune music blows through my 3-way Pioneer tower speakers? More than likely no(though I have already done that.) But will I pull this record out occasionally and play it to remind myself of all the fun and anger I felt over the course of my teen years playing and dying and starting over and dying again whilst attempting to rid the world of the evil Count Dracula? You bet I will.

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Inside gatefold sleeve by Becky Cloonan

I’m a collector of things I like, not things I’ll resell eventually, or use as collateral. I don’t buy something unless I’m going to enjoy hearing it. I don’t buy to buy. I don’t own museum pieces. I buy things that make me feel good and take me to a specific place in my head. Things that mean something to me. Castlevania exists in a chunk of my childhood that I look back at fondly and with much love. That week at my uncle’s house is one of them. Another is playing this Konami classic with friends stuffing ourselves with pizza and soda till 2am trying to beat the game. The anguish as the game would freeze on us one level before the end, and then the exhilaration of finally getting to the big man himself. This game didn’t make me into a video game lover by any means, but it did make me feel like I was a part of something. It was straightforward, simplistic in its goals, but hard enough to keep you coming back until you won. There were no fairies telling you to go the blue house in the haunted forest to find the purple key so you can open the green door in order to save the polka dot princess. Sorry, I don’t take orders well, especially from digital characters in a video game. Castlevania was simply walking through a castle killing monsters, devouring the hearts they left behind, and putting a stake through some bloodsucker’s heart. Simple. I wish real life were that simple.

So what happens if Mondo decides to put out Super NES’ Goldeneye? Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Until then, I’ve got some ghouls to whip.

“She’ll Kill You”

In just a mere two minutes and change the track “She’ll Kill You” from the upcoming volume one of the Stranger Things S/T pulls you from your daily grind and puts you into some other realm. It’s full and dense synth cavalcade washes over you and fills your ears with a pulsating melancholy that’s part Night Flights and part late night sci fi via Russel Mulcahy or Michael Mann.

Sometimes the most poignant and heavy statement can be said in a mere simple sentence. The overstretched and overly dramatic can get bogged down with too much grand vernacular. Cutting to the point can sometimes get the point across just as well. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of the Austin band S U R V I V E seemed to have subscribed to the less is more theory in regards to their scoring of the excellent Netflix series Stranger Things. They’re more Tangerine Dream than Zombi when it comes to coloring in the blank spaces with their retro brand of electronic music. If you’ve watched Stranger Things you would know what I’m talking about in regards to the music. It’s there just under the surface carefully nudging the story along as you fall for these relatable characters. Even the ones you start out not caring that much for turn a corner and you begin to root for them. The heavy synth score becomes a subtle, background character. A musical character actor that blends into whatever the scene needs. This is how true artists work. They don’t transform the art to fit themselves; they allow the art to transform them into what is needed to serve the overall piece.

It’s not secret that I love heavy synth music. The ample amount of Death Waltz/Mondo releases, Tangerine Dream records, and Jonas Munk/Jakob Skott albums that pepper my overall collection is proof of that. The Stranger Things S/T was a perfect reminder for me as to why I love heavy synth and why I will continue to love it, and why it’s such a perfect tool for musically coloring in the cinematic and celluloid world. It’s this futuristic, one man symphony. It’s this precise laser shot of symphonic pastiche. The instruments are blended together into this square wave of noise. Electronic orchestration that allows a small show like Stranger Things to have a bigger presence. Don’t get me wrong, I love true orchestration. There’s nothing like a 25 piece orchestra performing a piece for film, but there’s a certain isolation and melancholy that comes with the one-man synth score.

When this score arrives on vinyl I will have it. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein seem to know what the hell they’re doing. And if the Duffer Bros had them in mind all along to score their show, then I think those Duffer dudes know what they’re doing as well.

The Stranger Things love keeps rolling along.

 

I Don’t Feel Tardy

As quickly as summer break blew in, it’s just as quickly ending. Yes, we are in the midst of first day of school eve. With the oldest two hours south at her new school(she’s been there since August 3rd), my two youngest have picked out their clothes, brushed their teeth, and are making the fateful trip to their bedrooms for a night of angst-y sleep and restless, well, rest. My son, 11, is starting his last year of elementary school going into the 6th grade, while my 13 year old daughter is heading into the 8th grade. Her last year of middle school and is now at the top of the food chain in the realm of that awkward time known as the beginning teen years. As an 8th grader she’s done the time, taken the blows, and has endured the first year of middle school as an underclassmen. She is now up on the hill looking down on the little people. Enjoy it, my child. You won’t feel that exhilaration of power again for another 4 years.

Me, well I always approach the beginning of the school year with a little melancholy and nostalgia. I’m sad that another summer break has gone by. I hope we made the most of it. I hope the kids had a nice  break. And I hope I didn’t emotionally or psychologically scar them in any way. I’m pretty sure I didn’t, but you never know. There were no big trips except to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We saw a few movies, ate some tacos, and played lots of records and video games, so I guess that’s something.

This summer felt especially poignant as it was the summer before our oldest moved out and into a dorm, 2 years earlier than planned. It’s an honor and an amazing opportunity for her, and so far she seems pretty happy just two weeks in, and with one whole week of classes under her belt. But for me it feels like an end of an era. You get to those points where there’s no going back. You hear people say “Enjoy your kids when they’re young because you can never get those times back”. Well, I’m starting to understand that now. The laid back days seem to be gone. Now when she’s home she’s going to have to fit a whole lot of visiting in a relatively small amount of time. Parents, siblings, the family dog, grandparents, friends, and old work mates will all be vying for time when she comes home for the occasional weekend visit.

The care free times are gone.

I think the whole surgery thing back in the spring has left not only a physical mark on me, but an emotional one. I’m not crying watching commercials or anything like that, but I feel more sensitive to life. I’m more aware of just how fleeting it all is, and I want to make sure we make the most of it. That’s not to say I don’t get annoyed and occasionally want to throw a temper tantrum, but I feel there’s a virtue in internalizing that urge to lose my shit and try and absorb the brunt of it. I don’t want the last thing someone remembers of me to be me losing my shit over something stupid, like a bad driver pissing me off or pouting because I don’t want to do something that makes me uncomfortable. In the same respect, I’m going to indulge in things that make me happy. Records, making music, great coffee, comic books, and craft beer. Long afternoon walks/jogs in the summer sun listening to my favorite podcasts. Playing video games with my son. Sharing an overpriced coffee drink with my daughter, or indulging in tacos with my wife at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

These things may be little or seem insignificant, but man they’re what makes my world go around. They make being generally bummed about work everyday worth every minute. Summer break always seems to be this two month cosmos of tiny, significant events that build up to a lifetime of great memories. When the kids were much younger I always looked forward to the beginning of the school year. With little kids routine is the key to sanity. With routine the chaos of childhood seems so much more manageable. But with my children being older, well a lot of the pressure is off my shoulders. Summer isn’t the chaotic free-for-all that it was 7, 8 years ago. Now they can sleep in, make their own food, clean up after themselves, and have the house picked up before I’m home from work. That ends tomorrow.

And with it another summer of tiny, significant events.

For The Love Of Kevin Barnes : A Few Words On Of Montreal’s Svengali

I’m sitting in my living room after a couple beers and maybe a shot or two of Johnnie Walker Red and I’m on my second spin of the new Of Montreal long player Innocence Reaches. I’m once again in awe of the mighty and ADD-afflicted Kevin Barnes. This album seems to encapsulate all that is Kevin Barnes and Of Montreal. It’s a real musical palette of Barnes-isms.

You’d be hard pressed to find more than an 18-month spread between Of Montreal releases since the very beginning. This is a guy that emerges from these musical chrysalis’ every year and a half as some other personality that lives within this lanky, androgynous man’s body. The twee pop singer/songwriter, the jilted lover, the transvestite party hooker, the slick pop songsmith, the disjointed avante composer, the druggy 60s rocker, and the 70s jaded post-punker; these are all personas Kevin Barnes has portrayed in the 20 years of Of Montreal’s existence.

For me the journey began back in 2007 when I listened to Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer at a Fort Wayne, Indiana Borders Book Store. From there I was hooked. With each record I became more of a fan of this southern musical monster. Part Prince and part alien love child, Kevin Barnes relocated his interests and musical proclivities with each record. And since Hissing Fauna, Barnes has racked up nothing but disdain and critical pans from the music journalism world at large. When I first heard Skeletal Lamping I thought I was hearing the next great phase of music, while most of the official music reviews at large were pretty bad at best. From there False Priest was once again panned. Paralytic Stalks was dismissed as overblown, overreaching, and pretentious. Lousy With Sylvianbriar was the first album since 2007 that actually got some decent love from the music journalism crowd at large. It was a 60s rock throwback, with nods to Dylan, the Stones, and whoever else you want to throw in there. Aureate Gloom, to my ears, was another love letter to a bygone era, but more on the side of 70s New York and the lower east side. Strangely enough, that didn’t tickle the fancy of as many music critics as Lousy.

Fickle little bastards, they are.

Okay, so at this point I know that folks either dig the Barnes musical world or they don’t. There really is no in-between. Kevin Barnes is that guy that is coming up with bigger ideas and onto other things before you can get that last thing firmly planted into your head. I can understand how one might find the guy insufferable. I can dig ones idea of Kevin Barnes as a drama queen, attention getter, and begger to be the center of attention. And if all of that pushes you out of the Barnes camp, well no hard feelings. But for me, Kevin Barnes lives up to the drama. He’s a musical genius that is constantly evolving, reshaping, contouring, and renegotiating his own musical footing. He doesn’t seem content to just remain in one spot and be rooted down to one style, genre, time frame, sexuality, or personality. When the wife and I saw Of Montreal last October I was blown away by how he made the large room of sweaty fans feel like they were involved in some sort of sexual rock and roll exorcism. Costumes, lighting, theater, and rock and roll all built up to some sort of off-broadway production of Jesus Christ Superstar meets Bride of Frankenstein with a touch of Gimme Shelter, minus the Hell’s Angels’ manhandling. He may come across as unable to decide on a persona and idea, but really I think he’s exorcising demons each time out. He’s letting the pain and pleasure of life loose with every record. Musical genres and eras are merely the masks he wears when trick-or-treating at our ears.

Okay, so this was going to be a discussion about his tragically misunderstood album Paralytic Stalks, but I’ll be honest with you all I sort of got off point. I feel like all of Mr. Barnes’ personalities and style shifts get in the way of some folks locking in on who Kevin Barnes really is. Who is he really? To my eyes and ears he’s the kind of artist that needs to be evolving constantly or he’ll fade into an obscurity of his own making.  I think Lousy and Aureate were the first two albums where it felt as if he may have locked into a somewhat steady groove and might actually be happy there. Of course, with Innocence Reaches he’s thrown all of that out the window and seems to have begun an EDM phase, but only the way Kevin Barnes could do EDM. I don’t know how an artist can be faulted for that. Dylan went religious, Stones went disco, and the Dead went, well, wherever they went. If those cats can deviate from the recipe, why can’t anyone else without being scrutinized? At some point Ty Segall is going to get Tinnitus and put out a ballad-y piano album, while High On Fire will be going acoustic, so we’ll see how the conversation changes regarding chameleon-like musical shifts.

The Paralytic Stalks conversation will happen soon. For now, I want you to delve into Mr. Kevin Barnes’  and Of Montreal’s discography. The new record comes out Friday(as I said before, it’s really, really good) and I’m working on a proper review of that as well, but I implore you to revisit Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer, Skeltal Lamping, and False Priest. You say you dig the Stones, Dylan, and the Band? Then Lousy With Sylvianbriar will tickle your fancy(promise!) All are absolutely genius and beg for repeated listens. Just jump in and soak them up. Kevin Barnes might annoy at a party, but there’s no denying the guy’s talent.