Surprise! of Montreal dropped news on Friday that they have a new EP coming out. “Rune Husk” is a four-track EP that focuses on the darker, more introspective side of Kevin Barnes’ songwriting. It’s a continuation of the more dour side of the band that goes back to an earlier EP, “thecontrollersphere,” and its follow-up LP “Paralytic Stalks.” “Rune Husk” is quite a contrast from the last few full-lengths, especially the relatively bright “Lousy with Sylvianbriar” and the at times danceable “Innocence Reaches.” In hindsight, though, those albums feel like departures meant to mask the brooding lying just below the surface.
“Paralytic Stalks” was the last of Montreal release with its more or less classic lineup. James Huggins had left prior to the album, but Dottie Alexander, BP Helium, and Davey Pierce remained in the touring lineup, though the album was a very Kevin Barnes solo affair. The albums which followed found an entirely new band, new approach, and new sound. The songs remained autobiographical, but clearly showed new influences, namely folk, country, and blues.
The material on “Rune Husk” shares more than just the brooding atmosphere that exists on much of “Paralytic Stalks,” but also a return to Barnes’ characteristic lyric writing skills. Verses are often packed to overflowing with a manic spattering of literary references, and more SAT words than a David Foster Wallace novel.
Songs are as solid as one would expect from someone who has been writing music for over twenty years. Some elements become exaggerated though, like Barnes’ penchant for disjunct, labyrinthian song structures and chord changes that sometimes drive a song’s key structure off the rails. That being said, if you’ve been an of Montreal fan for a while you’ll pretty much know what to expect.
It appears that now, with “Rune Husk,” the darkness hidden below the surface couldn’t actually be covered for very long. Whatever temporary reprieve was granted between of Montreal’s last three releases has concluded and Barnes’ is shown retreating back into himself to face his fears, and frustrations, head on.