Album Review: Montaigne – Glorious Heights

A strong debut.

After four tantalising years popping up here and there on the Australian music circuit, it seems Montaigne is finally ready to welcome listeners to get lost in her funhouse.

Glorious Heights is the debut album for the Sydney-based singer-songwriter, and marks the first manifestation of her dedication to developing her songwriting skills. The result is an up-tempo album with emotional shifts about as large as Montaigne’s vocal range – and that’s saying something.

The result is an up-tempo album with emotional shifts about as large as Montaigne’s vocal range – and that’s saying something.

Over 13 tracks, Montaigne takes her listeners on an epic journey of wild highs and sullen lows, exploring the emotional experience of creativity with as much depth as her namesake. Glorious Heights details the dualism of ecstasy and self-loathing that the creative process brings, all delivered in Montaigne’s trademark drastic pitch shifts and pouring-forth lyrics.

The resulting sound beckons you into a dark circus tent full of temptations and pleasant surprises.

The title track is an aspirational and uplifting scene-setter that has Montaigne standing at the precipice of the creative process and envisioning, as the name suggests, the beauty of what could be.

In The Dark follows with with its synth-filled bittersweet pop highlighting not only Montaigne’s vocal capabilities but also her trademark vibrato that conveys emotion so well.

Things keep getting better from here, with Till It Kills Me and Because I Love You giving us two of the strongest tracks on the album. The lyrics of both explore insecurity and how others can affect how we see ourselves. Despite the dark subject matter, these two songs work extremely well over up-tempo percussion and catchy keyboard riffs.

What goes up must come down, and Consolation Prize is a tender and bittersweet little snippet of a song about silver linings that don’t provide much comfort. “I’m alive, that’s my consolation prize,” Montaigne sings, and you can’t help but imagine her under a bright spotlight on an empty stage. Stripped of busy instrumentation, Consolation Prize and its neighbour Come Back To Me – Interlude are a temporary reprieve from the frenzied energy we heard earlier.

The slump doesn’t last long, however. The rest of the album revels in its slightly demented sugary pop-ness, which stands out in tracks like Clip My Wings and Greater Than Me, but means some songs are forced into the background by failing to stand out among their hyperactive siblings.

Penultimate track Lonely soothes our rattled souls, and speaks to the desire to disappear, if only for a little while. Its steady pitch contrasts nicely to other tracks on the album, reflecting the flatline of dullness that loneliness can produce.

The album tapers out on the last track I’m Behind You + The Debt, a mostly restrained but at times discordant ballad with a big helping of synth and strings, followed by ‘hidden’ track (if there is such a thing these days) The Debt, a desperate and searching vocal number.

Despite an anticlimactic finish, Glorious Heights is a strong debut, and one that proves Montaigne’s fabulous funhouse isn’t such a bad place to be.

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