Freewave Lucifer f
The 18th studio album from seemingly immortal indie-pop auteurs of Montreal is shaped by the seismic emotional headfuck we all endured throughout the pandemic. Like many, the band’s mastermind Kevin Barnes was struck by isolation and uncertainty while making Freewave Lucifer fck. But where some of us channelled those feelings into Zoom quizzes, dog adoption and quests for self-improvement, he poured them into a new set of disorientingly intriguing songs.
The frontman has described the new record as “sewing together a lot of fragmented thoughts” and this resulting patchwork feels like a reflection of how the pandemic has altered our brains: restless, flitting from one unfinished idea to another.
It’s not an easy listen. In its first half, the album rattles through different sounds at breakneck speed: Blab Sabbath Lathe of Maiden packs in 80s synth-pop with experimental whirrs and screeches. Ofrenda-Flanger-Ego-à Gogo freewheels through arpeggiated guitars and lush psych-pop. The album’s range is impressive, but at times – as on Marijuana’s a Working Woman, which lurches through glam stomp to eerie disquiet – the constant switch-up of sounds gets too much.
Freewave Lucifer fck’s second half, though, is more focused – but also darker and more melancholy. Nightsift taps into the loneliness of the pandemic, with creeping synth notes and distant bass cushioning Barnes’ pondering: “What if she’s just a conversation I’m having with myself?”
By its end, the album is practically understated – a rarity for this band. The shadowy Hmmm gives voice to the world’s collective grief (“When everything is fucked/ You knowing that you’re not alone/ Only makes it even sadder”) and through the chaos comes a glimmer of relatability.