You can’t deny that since the turn of the century, there’s been an ‘Australian Invasion’ of sorts within the music industry. A small group of Melbourne friends have had success that’s nothing short of astronomical, blessing up with Tame Impala, Pond, Gum, and more recently, Montero – the solo project of acclaimed artist Ben Montero, whose quirky cartoon characters you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with if you love either Mac Demarco or Ariel Pink.
Montero’s no stranger to the scene. He dropped his acclaimed debut The Loving Gaze back in 2013, whose shimmering lead single ‘Adriana’ is still coined by many as one of their favourite tracks ever. But today sees the release of it’s successor, Performer – and the cementing of Ben Montero as not just an illustrative artist, but a musical one, too. Written between the historic streets of Athens and the sprawling urbanism of London – and produced by Jay Watson no less – Montero’s latest body of work is a technicolour odyssey that’s immediately going to reign as one of 2018’s top albums.
If you were looking for romance, then opener does ‘Montero Airlines’ brings you exactly that – a staggering swoop of number whose piano chords liken Montero’s vocals to those of a heartfelt ballad. Flowing lazily into the dreamy twangs of ‘Aloha’, Ben orders us to pack our bags as he whisks us away to a sun-drenched paradise, where the only thing that matter are twinkling synths and whirring guitar effects.
Seamlessly fusing psychedelia with emotion, Montero is an undisputed master at carving out emotive tracks that still remain ridiculously catchy. ‘Caught Up in My Own World’ is delectably crooning, with woozy backing vocals faultlessly complementing the beautiful middle-8 chord progression. ‘Destiny’, too, feels like a classic already – a number that’s on the very cusp of breaking into a full-blown movie score with it’s awe-inspiring ending riff. It’s clear that Montero knows his way around a pedal board, throwing out futuristic clangs left, right and centre. The whole thing feels like the biggest drug trip you’ve ever took – and it’s all the more better for it.
Montero’s recent singles have caused something of a stir – so it’s the right decision that Performer’s tracklist contains them. The infectious bassline of ‘Running Race’ glides along with Montero’s whispered vocals to give a Beatles-esque chorus breakdown featuring “ooh’s” and “ahh’s”. ‘Vibrations’ is similarly striking, a beauty of a track that gives hope and promise to any willing listener thanks to of the most ethereal verse melodies that’s been written in a while.
It’s difficult to pick simply one highlight on an album with no negatives. Perhaps it’s title track ‘Performer’ itself, an electro-fuelled dream with enough distorted vocals to last a lifetime; or maybe it’s the melancholic ‘Quantify’, where Montero murmurs “Think of all the fun that we’ll together, meeting by the Berlin Wall” in a husky, Bowie-like fashion. But there’s one track that simply can’t go ignored. ‘Tokin’ the Night Away’ is arguably Montero’s best song of all time, a single that’s received non-stop attention since its release and earned the band a slew of resounding cheers during their Demarco support slot. If it’s not up their with your favourite songs of all time, then you really need to rethink your music taste.
As album closer ‘Pilot’ flies us back to normality, it’s distinct slap-bass walking right off Paul Simon’s Graceland, it’s clear that there’s only one negative with Performer – that it has to end. Montero has proved himself a master of not only traditional art, but musical creative, too. It’s difficult to capture such an array of emotions and dreams in such an endearing manner, but fortunately, Performer does just exactly that. There’s no question about it – these ten tracks will ensure that Ben Montero becomes of 2018’s most explosive acts.