Lyrically, Paralytic Stalks contains confessions of an infinitely more personal nature than anything Kevin Barnes has written since 2007′s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Amidst dark ruminations on human existence, revenge, self-hatred, and his relationship with wife Nina, one encounters an emotionally raw Barnes struggling to contain his savage thoughts: “So much violence in my head / How are we still alive?” (“Authentic Pyrrhic Remission”).
And though it’s easy to become totally immersed within the captivating power of such revelations song after song, focusing only on the lyrics would prevent you from fully comprehending the true depth of Barnes’ work.
Because in a different, yet equally enthralling manner, Paralytic Stalks’ musical dimension proves itself similarly worthy of preoccupation.
For on a sonic level, the album – recorded at Barnes’ home studio in Athens, GA and mixed at Chase Park Transduction with the assistance of engineer Drew Vandenberg (Deerhunter, Toro y Moi) – is a stimulating array of densely packed ideas presented with stunning agility.
Never before has an of Montreal record moved so fluidly from one song to the next – each track feeding off the last in what seems a singular album-long movement that never allows you to rip your ears away.
As a result, Paralytic Stalks at times resembles modern classical with its intricate compositions, while at others echoes of neo-prog, pseudo-country, and ’60s pop can be heard.
Examples of these new elements abound throughout the record, notably on “Wintered Debts,” which witnesses its hushed vocal and acoustic guitar intro giving way to a country shuffle replete with pedal steel guitar, as well as the flute-driven, ELO-inspired single “Dour Percentage.”
Conceived on the fringe of a contemporary pop music landscape that seldom encourages listeners to dig beyond the surface level to receive satisfaction, Paralytic Stalks is the rare album with the audacity to DEMAND such a response.