Alrighty! We’re back with my second review of the week for Unknown Mortal Orchestra! Here we’re gonna check out their newly released sophomore album, ‘II‘. I guess if there’s one thing you can say about UMO at this point it’s that they don’t give a flying f*** about album titles, but I respect that. It should be all about the music, baby!
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
Hey everyone! Today I’m gonna be starting another series where I review albums from a band that has something releasing soon. Luckily for me, this band only has one album so far, so I don’t have much catching up to do. I guess that really isn’t much of a series either… oh well! Even though it’s only one album I’m definitely glad I checked it out. Why you ask? Read on, dear reader, read on.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra is influenced by several genres, but most of them are ones coming right out of the 60’s. Their sound has some hazy psychedelia that drifts along with a noticeable level of distortion, but it’s amazing how much rhythm is present at the same time. The song “How Can U Luv Me?” has very psychedelic guitar tones fluttering through the track, but it’s all brought down to earth with an extremely catchy vocal hook and an insanely bouncy rhythm section. The lead vocalist sings in a hurt but also oddly upbeat way that gives the track a lot of emotional soul even though it’s something you can dance to. You’ll be dancing why you’re crying, basically. Just kidding.
The fact that the bands debut album is able to employ many psychedelic qualities without making it all seem like a kaleidoscope of different sounds is a testament to how sound their instrumentation is. At the core of most every one of these songs is a head-bobbing rock song, and the psychedelic flourishes are more like jimmies on top of it all. The rhythm section is actually in the foreground in a lot of these songs, which is definitively refreshing to hear with this type of music.
What’s most interesting about this album is how much I was able to connect with it, even though the lyrics are hardly ever the main focus. You may understand the lyrics and you may sing along, but it’s more like just singing along with the melodies without really knowing (or caring) what the lyrics are saying – and I think that’s what the band sought to accomplish here. Most of the time the lyrics are purposefully hazy and mixed right into the instrumentation, because the music here is very much a collage of sounds rather than any one facet taking the lead. The album opener “Ffunny Ffrends” is a perfect example of a vocally distorted song that you can’t help but sing along to. This isn’t a knock on the songwriting, and honestly when the music is this catchy it isn’t even a point worth arguing anyway.
UMO’s debut album is a quick and fun psychedelic-tinged, rhythm heavy rock album that anyone with an interest in this type of music can get into. The band knows what they’re doing when it comes to laying down a very solid foundation of bass and drums that drive most of these songs forward, and then they sort of flesh them out with some psychedelic experimentation. Some of the songs can get a bit repetitive or just not do enough that really sticks out in your mind, but overall these guys get it right. In just 30 minutes UMO creates a foot-stomping, head-bobbing bash that begs you to come on in and join in the fun.
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Genres: Indie Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Garage Rock