Tag Archives: Psychedelic Rock

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II (2013) Review

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



Unknown Mortal Orchestra – S/T (2011) Review

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



Tame Impala – Lonerism (2012) Review

It’s tough to be a band that finds immediate success with their debut album. When you storm out of the gate with the bar raised so high, often times most bands aren’t able to live up to it on the next release. Tame Impala had the best chance of letting me down this year, because their debut album, Innerspeaker, was one of my favorite albums of 2010. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the band’s follow-up, Lonerism, is even better. It’s an album that is much more concerned with revealing its emotional core compared to its predecessor, which results in stronger songwriting and melodies.

The process of this album began immediately after their debut was released in 2010. Songwriting ensued while touring that LP, and as a result this album has been recorded in several different spots around the world; such as Austria, France, and the band’s native land, Australia. This type of recording process is perfect for the mastermind of Tame Impala, Kevin Parker. He once again does nearly EVERYTHING on this album – all instrumentation, vocals, and songwriting, bar two songs that are co-written with live drummer Jay Watson – and as a result gives him a lot more freedom to do what he wants, whenever he wants.

The first song released from the album was “Apocalypse Dreams”, a whirlwind of psychedelia that goes through 3 different stages that are all mesmerizing. It begins with a foot stomping drumbeat, accompanied by very rhythmic piano and a solid bass groove. Kevin Parker surprises on this song as he often sings in a register higher than he ever has before. A midpoint mellow breakdown leads to an eventual eruption of synth in the songs finale. The song itself is about the chaos of life and trying to make sense of it all. “Am I getting closer? / Will I ever get there? / Does it even matter?” It’s simply a fantastic song that is both similar to the debut but at the same time goes in completely different directions that make it fresh. Would this be what fans could expect to hear more of on the album? Oh yes.

Lonerism is a practice in sonic chaos, back-lit with sincere yet carefree lyrics that gives the album a “well, the crap’s hitting the fan but I’m not gonna get too wrapped up in it” vibe. It opens with “Be Above It”, a stunning song that has perhaps the best instrumentation that Kevin Parker has released yet. It begins with a looped whispered vocal saying “Gotta be above it”, which is then followed by drums that mimic the looped vocals. These drums quickly become distorted and fuzzy and are followed by very psychedelic synth. The most amazing thing about this song is how Kevin Parker is using all of these different instruments to form a sort of wigged-out orchestra. The drums distort into a ball of tension that is released and shot out in a wave of huge synth that has what I can only describe as a slingshot effect. Quite simply; it’s breathtaking.

These effects are continued on many other songs on the album, but there are lighter moments that are presented more clearly as a sort of respite from the madness. The LP’s 4th song, “Mind Mischief” has very clear and vibrant guitar riffs and drumming, accompanied by spacey but joyful vocals that are extremely catchy. The lead single from the album, “Elephant”, is a similarly straight-forward song, which has a heavy and bluesy riff that is quite different compared to anything else on the album. Kevin Parker says that this is one of his oldest songs that just never got recorded, so the difference in sound is expected. However, he gives it a fittingly spaced-out midsection that keeps it from being out of place on this album.

The biggest surprise on the album – which is also one of the highlights – is the closer, “Sun’s Coming Up”. It is a piano driven song that is reminiscent of a nursery rhyme, but the music is completely offset by heart-wrenching songwriting about possibly losing someone forever. It’s the most emotional song on the album – I’d say the most emotional song Parker has ever done – and it’s a phenomenal way to close this colossal hurricane of an album.

Kevin Parker is more concerned with making an album as a cohesive whole rather than a pack of songs unrelated to each other. The album flows perfectly, but that’s not to say that the structure is at the expense of creativity or surprises from individual tracks, which I think Parker felt partially restricted by on the first album. He was concerned with the template for the first album; making sure that everything was in the same box. This time around he’s drifting away from that box, and the places that he’s ending up in are very rewarding. There are a lot of different ideas on Lonerism that all blend together not to form a jumbled mess, but an album of incredible ambition and scope that is near-perfect in all facets of its execution.

Release Date: October 5, 2012

Genres: Psychedelic Rock, Alternative Rock, Neo-psychedelia