Athens, Georgia indie pop collective Of Montreal have changed costumes dramatically more than once. Centered around the always verbose songs of Kevin Barnes, their earliest albums were psychedelic twee freakouts, which gave way to more disco-informed pop around the time of 2004's Satanic Panic in the Attic and culminated in the group's most fully formed work on 2007's electro-pop epic Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? That album was marked by a shift toward darker lyrical topics, with Barnes getting into the depths of divorce, psychotic episodes, and multiple personalities all while turning in some of the most accessible music of Of Montreal's discography. Daughter of Cloud is a lengthy collection of outtakes and B-sides beginning around the time of Hissing Fauna, and running through to 2011. Ten of the album's 17 tracks are previously unreleased, with the rest coming from rare or out of print 7"s and CDs from the same time. Starting with 2008's befuddling and pretentious Skeletal Lamping, Of Montreal started a long and troubled road of less coherent albums and increasingly psychologically damaged themes, with albums like 2010's False Priest and 2012's Paralytic Stalks spinning further and further out of control and away from pop toward experiments and missteps. With the majority of the unreleased tracks on Daughter of Cloud being convoluted outtakes from these already hit-and-miss albums, a lot of it definitely falls into the miss category. The album starts strong with "Our Love Is Senile," a rubbery dance-pop number from the Hissing Fauna sessions with the same frantic yet positive energy as the best of the songs on that album. Quickly following that comes a series of False Priest outtakes ranging from schizophrenically scattered to unlistenable. The embarrassing pseudo-rap of "Steppin' Out" dissolves into the Bowie nightmare of non-song "Handlopp Stat" and a few more musical but equally cringe-inducing songs from the Skeletal Lamping era. Once these questionable outtakes end, however, things pick up greatly. The Carpenters meet Loretta Lynn at a Fleetwood Mac party classic rock ballad of "Feminine Effects" features lead vocals by Rebecca Cash, and slows Barnes' muse down enough to expose the song's gorgeous hooks without moving on to the next part in a paranoid rush. Songs like "Psychotic Feeling" and "Subtext Read, Nothing New" feel slightly unfinished, but the relative emptiness of these songs when compared to the usual mad rush of stimulus that makes up any given Of Montreal song is refreshing to say the least. The album ends with an echoey cover of Neil Young's "Expecting to Fly," taking the overall flow of the record from dizzying building jumpers to a chilled-out cool-down period before the end. Despite a few tracks that should have stayed unreleased, Daughter of Cloud succeeds by showing the most extreme versions of several different sides of Of Montreal, from their most intense and suffocating to their most uncommonly tender.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas