Saturday, March 10, Ships of the Sea North Garden, 8:30 p.m.
of Montreal is scheduled to release a new album, White is Relic / Irrealis Mood on March 9—one day before their headlining performance at Savannah Stopover. It promises to be a special treat from a band that has shapeshifted from acoustic to electronic over the course of 14 studio albums in the last 22 years, drawing comparisons to David Bowie and Talking Heads.
While creating the upcoming album, Athens-based frontman Kevin Barnes reached a state of paranoia over the 2016 election, discovered the benefits of Buddhist meditation, and fell in love.
“The album came out of a transitional period, but maybe I’m always in a state of transition,” admits Barnes, who identifies as a gender-fluid heterosexual.
His songs often portray a solipsistic narrative that end up finding a greater cultural resonance. “It’s Different for Girls,” from 2016’s Innocence Reaches, was received as a feminist anthem. His more fictional songs use remote lyrical pairings while pondering religion, mythology and sociology.
The phrase “White is Relic” from the title of the new album “was inspired by James Baldwin’s writings regarding the creation and propagation of a toxic American White identity.”
Yet contrary to such lofty rhetoric, Barnes does not feel he’s reaching up to interpret the collective consciousness.
“We’re all affected by the time we’re living in, but my albums all come from a more personal place,” he explains.
Cognitive Therapy sessions have recently shown Barnes how our ability to express emotion is limited by the language we use.
“Music can transcend all that,” he says. “I love listening to foreign language music where I can’t understand the words but I can still feel what they’re trying to say.”
He noted a particular enthusiasm for Brazilian Tropicalia, which was influenced by bossa nova and sprang from a resistance to their U.S.-backed fascist dictator in the 1960s.
Savannahians will get a first look at costumes and visuals for the new tour.
Without giving away any surprises, Barnes notes it will be “reflective of all the different layers of what it means to be a human.”
And while those layers may be growing ever more atomized, the breadth and abundance of of Montreal reminds us that no matter how much frustration and disappointment we face, life stumbles on, and there will always be another album next year.
So throw on a sparkly dress, paint new eyebrows on your forehead, and shake off all the fear and anger amid rainbow lights and beautiful melodies, because as The Lady Chablis said, “The South is one big drag show, Honey.”