Of Montreal

Cherry Peel

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Hailing from the '90s-resurgent Athens, GA, scene, unofficial home base to the Elephant 6 collective, Of Montreal is perhaps the least publicized band in the Elephant 6 stable but not because they make the least-worthy music. To the contrary, Cherry Peel is one of the most unabashedly pretty releases from that group, and, in fact, stands apart from most everything in the pop scene due to its simple, unassuming innocence. The vocals of songwriter Kevin Barnes are achingly heartfelt and puppyish, and his songs seem to spring directly out of childhood, or at least seem touched by a childlike yearning, so much so that you can't help feeling all fuzzy inside and perhaps desirous of hugging someone, maybe your mom, after hearing them. And the songs are uniformly expert: "In Dreams I Dance With You" comes across like a cupid-struck Pinocchio's sweet longing; "Montreal" is a wasteland ballad worthy of Neil Young; and "Don't Ask Me to Explain" will make your heart palpitate and bubble up into your throat it is so unpretentiously euphonic. The closest cousin to Of Montreal is probably the Apples in Stereo, and like that band, the influence of the Beatles, particularly Paul McCartney, and the Beach Boys is pervasive, and other '60s music such as Brill Building pop and the Lovin' Spoonful ("Everything Dissappears When You Come Around") and a bit of psychedelia, as well as a pinch of new wave, occasionally reaches the surface of the songs. But Of Montreal touches on so many other sources than those, such as circus music and, on "I Can't Stop Your Memory," even a bit of jazz, and the entire album has the sentiment and conviction of early-20th century, old-timey, and Tin Pan Alley tunes. The gorgeous lushness of Cherry Peel conceals the bedroom-bred genesis of the entire undertaking. And though it would be easy to dismiss the whole album as so much cuteness, Of Montreal never hint at irony. The band is not mocking pop, it loves the form and the chance to express that joy; and that joy is on full display on Cherry Peel like no band since the early Beatles.

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