ALBUM REVIEW: Montaigne – ‘Complex’

Words By Emily Hollitt.

Montaigne’s ‘Complex’ is exactly that- complex. Montaigne has always been a particular source of inspiration for me in terms of her ability to be proudly and profoundly vulnerable. Her latest does  that and so much more. The album plays like a novel from start to finish, opening and closing with power and while using pain as the foundation of the journey to self-discover and growth.

 CHANGE opens the album on a high, booming marching band style drums pulse underneath the track signifying power. “I get in to the shower, I cry there for an hour, That’s how I solve my problems, I wash away the doubt with change!”, she sings about releasing and washing away her struggles and transforming it into strength to change. Her theme of change continues with Complex, as she recalls a time an ex developed a Messiah Complex. It explores narcissistic qualities with the lyrics “At least you confess that power is your object, but you’re no God”. The theatrics of her vocals are stand out on this track as her voice goes from shaky to strong without strain, assisting perfectly with the narrative aspect of the song.

Deep bass and a funky bass lines heard throughout For Your Love perfectly reflect this power imbalance of the kind of relationship mentioned in the previous track. It speaks about subversiveness in a relationship, using a song which seems to change themes as quickly as a turbulent relationship. “I will be here when you wake, fit into me like a glove” she sings, capturing this submissive mindset perfectly. “Like a seal you can train me, tame me, estrange me from my family” she sings about the power dynamic she felt from a controlling partner.

Wait just a minute, is that a glitch? Did I get a glimpse out? Outside the program a lick of the red pill I can see out. There is a life out there where I am free to feel complete, wow! Is that a reset button? Don’t touch that, wait one second!”

For listeners who have experienced or are still in abusive or controlling relationships, this line perfectly captures the way the brain processes these situations- bouncing back quickly from the ideas of escaping and fantasy of being able to be independent again, before the co-dependent emotionally attached part of the mind respond. The ‘80’s Dream Pop inspired outro eases the song out exactly like that- a dream-like outro to a movie with the perfect ending, juxtaposing the song’s meaning perfectly.

Losing My Mind recounts Montaigne’s struggles with a difficult invisible illness which for a period of time affected her live constantly. “In the light, I am blind, I feel like I am losing my mind” she explains about feeling in the dark about what was wrong with her body. “I can barely breathe… I can barely eat… I can barely sleep” she repeats to represent how constant the pain and the effects were. The sparkly production starkly contrasts the painful narrative of the song, capturing the idea of slowly falling into insanity from trying to stay happy and hold it all together while feeling at her lowest and weakest. Love Might Be Found (Volcano) follows this, a personal favourite of mine from the album. Inspired by Björk’s Jóga with the very fitting volcanic beats, she uses this and the ideas of natural disasters which would prevent her from leaving the place where she had a short-term romance because if she could stay, maybe she could have found a permanent love.

The Dying Song combines the bleak with the peppy. “What if I only got a single life? What if I trip and fall upon my knife? What if the world is meant for doom and gloom? Guess at the end you can sing this tune” she sings before proclaiming “This is gonna be my dying song!”. The song retains sarcastic undertones with again the marching beat and sparkly production over gloomy lyrics. Showyourself begins with calming yet dissonant piano and a simple beat. Her voice is gentle, in some parts conversational. “I don’t know how to take care of me, alone”.

Orchestral strings open Please You as she conveys herself as defeated, while she processes the subversive mindset she spoke about in early tracks

I’m going to sit here in the dark and hope one day I make my mark on you, it’s all I long do. I belong to me and to my heart. I hope one day that I can stop… trying to please you”.

With these lines, she speaks about the steps of rising above her defeat and learning to get her power back.

Stockholm Syndrome takes a darker turn in terms of production- almost uncomfortable to listen to. “It always feels like something is wrong, and you’re my only one and this is where I belong. And you sing my lullabies and you stroke on my hand, but I always feel like someday you will kill me”, she sings making it obvious that this song is about domestic abuse. She indivertibly sings about suicidal threats and psychologically abusive behaviours, general controlling and violent acts, as well as the notion of how obvious it was to her that she needed to leave whereas the Stockholm Syndrome kicks in, keeping her there. This song, to me, is possibly the most impactful and poignant on the album. As a sufferer of domestic abuse, myself, the honestly and accuracy and bluntness of the narrative supported by the uneasy bass-heavy instrumental brought back the constant fear of being in the situation, but in an oddly comforting way. For me, it me feel that my experiences could be understood, which I hope is a feeling Montaigne is able to gain for herself with the song, as well as with many other listeners- just to feel less alone after such an emotionally isolating event.

Pleasure gets incredibly candid as she sings about her relationship with her body. She sings, at first, with a kind of innocent femininity with the line “I can barely stand to touch the skin of me. I can barely stand, barely lay a hand, on my fickle thoughts” before her voice growing angrier, more frustrated or masculine with the line “Tell ‘em I’m the man, dick in my hand, bleeding on the floor, do they want me anymore?”. “Why do you stay wrapped up in pain?” she sings to her body as she struggles with her invisible illness, craving to have a body which can feel good. “Everybody knows that I am lonely”, she coos. She further explores her relationship with her body in is this all I am good for?, with opening line “every day I wake up and measure the skin around my waist. Is this all I am good for?”. The entire track details her negative feelings about her body, exploring not only the social pressures of having the ‘perfect’ body in today’s media-entrenched world, with a particular focus on the enormous pressures on the female body- particular in terms of waist size, shape and weight. The song repeats the first few lines throughout the track, representing the loop of body image issues and how they creep their way habitually into daily routine.

I am a Clown ties the issues explored throughout the album perfectly, speaking about how she feels she does everything she knows she shouldn’t. This is exemplified in the line “If I am earnest we’re not meant to be, you should have found I am a clown” with later stating “Some people laughing, I am a clown, So do I want those who want me to frown?…Though I have found I am a clown, I still put the mask on when he is around.”. She uses this song again to portray the feelings of being caught in the loop of a toxic relationship- to feel as though you are not doing what would be logical to the outside world, and then being spoken about, ridiculed or laughed at- just like a circus clown.

The album finishes just as it began- with power. READY starts with a strong drumbeat, like what you would hear before going in to battle. With this track as the finale, she takes all her pain and disappointment she has released throughout the album, with this track expressing her using this pain and using it to ignite her need to move on and leave it all the past. “I’m ready to begin again”. The track takes a political turn with “Take me to the final stage. Give me, give me equal wage. I am no longer afraid”, expressing she her own frustration with her own pain, but also her frustration with the pain of the world and how she is ready to make some changes. ‘Complex’ as a whole is one of the most inspiring albums I have ever had the pleasure to listen to. Through her pain and her stories, Montaigne successfully both finds honesty with herself and her painful experiences, while also not only proving to herself and to her listeners that it is possible to turn your experiences into strengths and opportunities for change. This album is as much honest and eye-opening as it is comforting- like a safety blanket for anybody suffering with body image issues, domestic abuse or any other pain, whether it be a chronic illness or a mental health issue, to feel both understood and to feel less alone.

‘Complex’ is set for release on August 30, PREORDER COMPLEX NOW.

Leave a Reply