Happy Birthday, Kevin Barnes!


Kevin Barnes — who is the heart and brain and mouth and anus of of Montreal — was born today in 1974.

Since 1996, he has released 13 full-length albums: totaling almost 10 and a half hours, three (ish) EPs: totaling another 70 minutes, and at least four full-length compilations of original music: totaling another 3.5 hours — plus a bunch of distinct singles (and probably some early-days tour-only releases unknown to me), which creates a conservative estimate of about 15 hours of original music.

(For scale, The Beatles released about 10 hours in eight years between four songwriters.)

Kevin Barnes is not only the writer of this beastly catalog, but also the producer — though False Priest and thecontrollersphere were co-produced with Jon Brion, who sought Barnes out, perhaps because geniuses gravitate toward one another. Speaking of which, he has also worked with Kishi Bashi, geminitactics, Janelle MonĂ¡e, and Solange.

He is one of the most prolific and eclectic artists working today, wearing his many influences on his many sleeves, cycling through personas and genres like a Picasso moving from this period to that period, each a vessel for a depth of lyrical grace and madness, forging sounds and concepts simultaneously fresh and ancient, often achieving both senses of the word pastiche within a given song — creating a sort of collage of emulations — without reducing himself to a rip-off artist. Though his inconsistency is consistent, he even seems immune to sinking into the common pop-rock quicksand of ripping off oneself.


In addition to his seemingly non-human mechanism for writing and making, he is a touring apparatus. With his many esteemed collaborators, specifically his brother, David Barnes, he constructs a unique stage show akin to a stationary parade, an irreal vaudevillian nightmare, a paracinematic hallucination, a dark revival from another dimension, and a Halloweenic baptism for self-identifying freaks.

But perhaps the apex of his triumphs lies in his ability to construct an ongoing body of work that births an aural dialectic; of Montreal sounds like all of your favorite musicians and bands, and yet no band or musician sounds like of Montreal.

I don’t exactly know how to express how important his work is to me. So I’ll attempt with a hypothetical situation:

If a devious force upended my future by offering two options — one where Kevin Barnes could continue to make music while I could not make anything and another where he could not make music while I could make whatever I wanted, I would readily choose the former and forfeit the profound and horrific pleasure, despair, and therapeutic synthesis of creation, because even trapped in the internal dystopia of such a ludicrous scenario, there is no greater artistic satisfaction I can fathom than that of engaging with the true literature provided by of Montreal.

Happy Birthday, Kevin!

And thank you for the tremendous output of magic and power. It has meant a lot to me, as I’m sure it has meant a great deal to many others out there who have also found they have blood in their hair.


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