What is most apparent from the get-go with this album is that it’s more reserved and the tracks are often slow-burning. We don’t really get the super-upbeat and danceable songs like on their debut with tracks like “How Can U Luv Me”. However, that’s not really a bad thing. In fact, I think the highlights on this album are the songs that are more laidback and have a higher emphasis on melody and minimalistic instrumentation. “From the Sun” has this gorgeous acoustic strumming that is accompanied by really catchy hooks, and “So Good At Being In Trouble” has a chorus that is so freaking beautiful and catchy and soulful (anything else?) that it has been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it.
Even though these softer moments do bring about some fantastic songs on the album, not all of them are winners. The 7-minute long “Monki” has a melody that is good enough on its own merits, but it’s not nearly good enough to justify a 7-minute song. Closer “Secret Xtians” falls in a similar vein; being a technically tight song but doesn’t have enough melodic strength or instrumentation to do anything more than just remain background noise. There is some psychedelic experimentation added on a few tracks to try and mix things up, but they really add nothing to the songs and actually make them meander a bit. Near the end of the album is a track called “Dawn“, which is a minute long instrumental that really has me scratching my head about why it is even on here.
When it comes to Unknown Mortal Orchestra, I feel like emotional simplicity is their strong point and it’s something I think they should pursue more often. Too many times they try to detach from that simplicity with uninteresting experimentation or stretch ideas out farther than they really have any right to. However, when they get it right, they REALLY get it right, and a few of these tracks are fantastic. It may not be a home run, but ‘II‘ shows the band offering a different element to their sound that yields some positive results.
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Genres: Indie Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Lo-fi