How do you approach an album as tantalizingly complex as Paralytic Stalks?
You could begin from a lyrical perspective and appraise the occasion it provides for an unobstructed view directly into the psyche of Kevin Barnes, of Montreal’s principal songwriter. But be prepared — one listen to “I spend my waking hours haunting my own life / I made the one I love start crying tonight / And it felt good” (“Spiteful Intervention”) immediately reveals this is not Barnes filtered through the lens of an adopted persona or invented alter ego.
Rather, these are confessions of an infinitely more personal nature than anything he’s 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 these revelations song after song, focusing only on the lyrics would prevent you from fully comprehending the true depth of Barnes’s work. Because in a different, yet equally enthralling manner, Paralytic Stalks’s musical dimension proves itself similarly worthy of preoccupation.
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