Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Album Review - Glorious Heights

Montaigne's Glorious Heights is only days away from release, so we thought we'd take a little track-by-track look at one of our most anticipated albums of the year. With the singles 'Clip My Wings', 'In The Dark' and 'Because I Love You' already released, expectations for what Montaigne's debut LP would be have been set quite high. But if anyone's going to smash those expectations to smithereens, it's going to be Montaigne. So, what are we waiting for? Let's talk about all things Glorious Heights...

by Montaigne (out August 5, 2016)

- "I don't mind, I don't mind seeing you leave me behind. I'm trying to climb to glorious heights, to the precipice of my mind."

Before you even hear the first words from Montaigne herself, the music of the title track 'Glorious Heights' is telling you there's an element of the fantastic that's going to guide this album. This feeling is only reinforced from the moment we are introduced to our leading lady, who lays out her desire to reach for the ambitious levels outlined in the title. It's mighty pop, the kind that's incredibly smart in both composition and the layered lyrics that leave so much to take from and unravel. With the soaring vocals we've grown accustomed to over the past couple of years, Montaigne ensures right from the beginning that the glorious heights she's set out for will be well within reach. 

- "I do believe, I've been mistreated, my disbelief comes for a reason, I do not love anyone anymore, you taught me how, to be numb to the core." 

When 'In The Dark' was released at the start of the year, it seemed like a huge step into a more experimental sound for Montaigne. I guess it is, there's certainly a lot going on throughout the track, which makes repeated listens a treat as you uncover more and more to love... but it doesn't seem as much a move towards the 'experimental' as it does Montaigne fully being able to realise the sound she's wanting to create. Her sound. The Montaigne sound, if there's such a thing. It's a bit manic, epic, rich with exploration and exposition. I love the way the verses are framed from the perspective of the same person while single and in a relationship. Their thought process, the things that annoy or worry them. Scare them even? The bridge or breakdown or whatever... it's spectacular, honest and a huge reason as to why you'll find yourself heading straight back to the start when 'In The Dark' ends.

- "Everybody says that we get better, get better later, we can try, we can try, we can keep on trying through whatever. But the feeling that you feel feels heavy, I will be ready, I will try, I will try, I will keep on fighting till it kills me." 

After listening to 'Till It Kills Me' once...

Yeah... I'm dead. But not really. But I am. I want to listen to this song forever. It is on another level. If it had a level, it would be the secret level that no one can ever find and it's the best thing to ever happen if you should find it. I don't play games that much, is that even a thing. Montaigne, you like your games, help me out? 'Till It Kills Me' is the definition of epic. There's the anthemic chorus, the 80s inspired electronic music that makes you want to jump up and down and dance it all around and the totally inspirational (without being forced or wanky) message. This is what empowerment should sound like in 2016. And it is. Because here's this song and you should listen to it over and over with me and we can be happy together forever. I'm not sure if you can tell, but I think this is one of the best songs I've ever heard. 

- "My friends all feel that, I'm different around you, I tell them all that they are wrong, because I love you."

'Because I Love You' was released a couple of months ago as the third single from Glorious Heights. You can tell why it found itself in the running for release. This is straight up pop perfection goodness and her most immediately infectious track. Well, it was until I heard 'Till It Kills Me' and died and came back to life, but you've already heard that story and it doesn't mean that 'Because I Love You' isn't the perfect song to be blasting out of radios all over the world. Even though it has all of the hallmarks of a great 'pop' song, Montaigne elevates 'Because I Love You' with the story in the song, looking back at a relationship once thought to be golden and recognising it was far from being so. With much deserved support from triple J, I'm hoping to hear this one come the Hottest 100 next Australia Day. 

- "I never want to lose what you mean to me. No, I never want to lose how I'm feeling..." 

This is a sweet moment on Glorious Heights that's all but guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Yes, even you, dear reader with the heart of ice. A super cute love story is told throughout, as our protagonist chooses to embrace all of the good things that can come with such things, despite initial hesitations and all those little questions that probably run through the minds of anyone that chooses to be vulnerable with another. Yes, yes... except you, dear reader with the heart of ice. Just listen to 'What You Mean To Me' again, okay? There's strings, there's horns and Montaigne's gorgeous voice. Romance is alive. Embrace it! 

- "There are bruises to cover, the bleeding's internal, I'm told to be quiet so... No one knows I'm dying, no one knows who's lying."

You'll know as soon as the first piano note is held just that little bit longer than usual that 'Consolation Prize' is going to be a ballad. A knockout ballad even. Sometimes you just know. But you won't be prepared for how heartbreaking this one's really going to be. 'Consolation Prize' is one of those songs that will take your breath away and stop time for a moment. When you notice that almost four minutes have disappeared in what seemed like thirty seconds, well, you know you've listened to a special song. A standout moment in the middle of so many brilliant tracks, silly little words from a silly little writer won't do it any justice. 'Consolation Prize' is a must listen track so you can experience everything for yourself and come to your own conclusions.

- "Come back to me, my love. I'm not giving up. I'm not giving up." 

A short moment to catch your breath after 'Consolation Prize' will be greatly appreciated, before you move on to 'Come Back To Me' proper... 

- "My only intent is love, don't run away from me, I'll let my dogs loose so don't sleep." 

We were promised that 80s influences would run throughout Glorious Heights and 'Come Back To Me' is chock full of them, right down to the vocal performance and the fact that you can't seem to stop doing the running man, the robot and the moonwalk. It's the perfect pick me up too. Following 'Consolation Prize' with something low could have been too much, but 'Come Back To Me' will put a huge smile on your face. It has an irresistible charm and who's going to argue with that when Montaigne's powerful voice is booming out for all to hear, "my only intent is love,"? No one. That's who. The piano line right at the end spins the track in a completely different direction to what comes before, but it's a beautiful little segment. 

- I'm looking for someone greater than me, that's what I want to be." 

Sweet, merciful Zeus. I didn't think it was going to get more '80s' than 'Come Back To Me', but here we are with 'Greater Than Me'. This is out of control in the funnest way imaginable. You're going to want to sing along to this one. I already am, but I want to sing along to it in a crowd of people to mask how poor my attempt is. Let's be honest, not many of us will be hitting those notes in the way that Montaigne is here. 'Greater Than Me' is the first song on 'Glorious Heights' that I'd even think of using the word funky to describe, but the shoe fits so let's go with it. Montaigne has a funky song on Glorious Heights and it's called 'Greater Than Me'. Don't let the word 'funky' put you off. This is genuinely a lot of fun. 

- "You're asking me, to be kind to you, well, let me tell you something, dear, that kind of game takes two." 

I believe 'Clip My Wings' is a perfect song. There is absolutely nothing that could be done to improve on its quality. 10/10. A+++. It's Gr8, as the kids would say. We loved it so much last year that it came in at #1 on our Top 115 Songs of 2015 countdown. Jo would say in our write up that, "this track is everything we like about all of our favourite songs; bold and bright, confident without arrogance, open and honest and timid and self-assured, all at the same time." I might have said something about it being, "the best kind of thrill; hitting spectacular highs and flying low in an applause worthy show of defiance." It was as obvious then as it is now listening to Glorious Heights that Montaigne would smash through any expectations for her debut. And expectations have been high. But when you're capable of crafting a song as perfect as 'Clip My Wings', you're going to come up with something pretty special and that's exactly what Glorious Heights is. 'Clip My Wings' doesn't just hold up almost a year later, we love it even more. 

- "And so I lie to myself, nobody loves me. Silence is my best friend, don't want to get attached, I am feeling different, I've removed my damage."

We heard 'Lie To Myself' for the first time at the end of last year during one of Montaigne's gigs and couldn't wait to hear the recorded version. It does not disappoint. Coming in at 04:48, it's one of the longest tracks on the album and has more time to play with the build up. Which is spectacular. Anytime you've got a choir-ish moment at the end of the track that feels earned, you've got yourself a winning song, my friends. At this point, I might be getting a bit repetitive, but 'Lie To Myself' plays to all of Montaigne's strengths; awesome storytelling and ridiculously good vocal work. I'm betting a lot of listeners will find themselves relating to the lyrics too... 

- "I try to keep away from things destructive, I can not seem to get away, I don't think I will be corrupted, so let's pretend that makes it all okay." 

As someone just a liiittle bit older than Montaigne (*cough* ten years older), I'm listening to 'Lonely' and thinking, "oh, you're in that part of your early adulthood." So many questions, so much finding of oneself and making yourself into the person you might think you're supposed to be and those thoughts that you'll likely end up alone and wondering what you do with all of this newfound "freedom" you have because now you is an adult. 'Lonely' is asking all of those questions and finding a young adult that would rather be as far away from all of the thoughts in her head as everyone else at that age will. Things work out, in one way or another. A lot of those questions start moving to the back of your mind. You're never really alone. Everything will be fine. A great little track for the "older" crowd to reminisce to and for the younger ones to relate to. 

- "My favourite past-time, is wondering if you're still alive, and greeting the people who come and go in my life." 

Everything I was thinking while listening to 'Lonely' seems ridiculous now, given the reminder that Montaigne is writing these words that are really mature and insightful. Case in point, 'I'm Behind You'. We're hearing about the people that come and go in your life, but it's totally fine when it comes to the ones that go because they're not lost... you're right behind them. You can find them. It's really nice and I really mean that. Saying something is nice seems to have become a way of politely describing anything a little wanky. But 'I'm Behind You' will give you a nice feeling. It's warm and full of kindness. And it closes out Glorious Heights in a way that leaves a smile on your face long after you've finished listening. "I just want you to see, I am around you, I am behind you, if you need somebody beside you." Stick around for a sneaky little bonus track too...

Glorious Heights is a huge achievement. For a debut to be this expertly crafted... it's going to blow your mind. I knew going in that I was going to love this album, but Montaigne has still crushed any and all expectations for what this LP was going to be. Far and away the best album released in 2016 so far. I'm thinking I'll be saying it's the best album of 2016 come December. On August 5, do yourself a favour and get this album (and support Australian music in the process).

Matt Bond gives Glorious Heights five dancing girl emoji out of five...

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