Armed with a strong sense of pop melody, the emo sensitivity and vocal accessibility of Ben Gibbard, and the kind of chops that have made the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Conor Oberst household—or at least indie-outhouse—names, Monta (singer-songwriter Tobias Kuhn) could very well be the rock literati’s next big find. The Brilliant Masses is his first release for Viennese label Klein, which is best known for its roster of electronic artists—fitting since the album begins with what sounds like digital crickets rubbing their prosthetic legs together. The song, “Capitulate,” moves in more ways that one, making sudden, unexpected turns and key changes, as does the deceptively simple and moving “There’s A Hole In Your Heart.” The standout “Everything” finds Kuhn singing in a lower register than usual, the oblique lyrics (war? love?) informed by the song’s coda of a descending piano melody and what sounds like a crumbling iceberg or distant machine-gunfire. It’s these things, along with the occasional electric guitar and electronic wash, that gives The Brilliant Masses just enough punch to keep the album from sinking into predictable indie-folk tedium. It’s a record that could just as easily be enjoyed through earbuds as it would be as background music at a coffee shop.
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