As part of the ‘Year in Review’ series, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s sophomore album II has been chosen as 2013’s most overlooked album.
In 2010, it was the track Ffunny Ffriends that made known the psych rock three piece that is Unknown Mortal Orchestra. On their much-anticipated second release, we hear a return of the guitar and vocal melody driven, reverb saturated hazy sound - with a few new styles creeping into the bands repertoire.
A delicate guitar lick draws the curtain on the sun drenched opening track, which ironically talks about getting away ‘From the Sun.’ The warmth lead singer Ruban Nielson emanates is comparable to early, muddled recordings of a teenage John Lennon. It provides the most obvious backdrop to ease into the catchy hooks that are to follow.
The soft snare driven first release of the album ‘Swim and Sleep Like a Shark’ was a prefect introduction to the direction that this album has taken. As the guitar plays a funk inspired riff, a soulful tinge is heard through the crackling of Rubens falsetto that he implements to perfect imperfection.
‘So Good at Being in Trouble’ is the highlight track for me. It is definitely a grower; I didn’t think too much of it at first but had it on repeat after the third listen. A cleaner sound reveals how far Nielson has come with his song writing. He effortlessly talks of a girl who ‘was so good at being in trouble’ but ‘so bad at being in love.’ Simple chords play under his infectious chorus, proving that less is more where his soulful melodies are concerned.
We hear a return to the hard-hitting experience of their first self-titled debut album on the short ‘One at a Time.’
On ‘The Opposite of Afternoon,’ the drummer introduces a feel akin to the Tower of Power, laying down a fat funk groove to brilliant high harmonies put through a phaser.
If there is one album filler song, for me it was ‘No Need for a Leader’. This is quickly elapsed, however, as the next two songs open up with raunchy pedal effected guitar solos that feature on the seven minute ‘Monki’ followed by the one minute long instrumental interlude, ‘Dawn.’
The mood is picked up in the following track ‘Faded in the Morning’ where we hear a return of something that UMO pull off so well – the melody line played on the lead guitar and sung completely balanced in the mix.
Finally, Nielson demonstrates his triumph of infectious melodies as he ‘Na-Na’s’ his way through the closing track ‘Secret Xtians.’
UMO soaked this record in the sun before they pressed it.
It’s a warm record that will have you humming along to melodies that will stay in your mind. The band have introduced aspects of soul recently unheard of in their sound and flawlessly pushed the boundaries on the amount of delicate funk you can mix with psychedelic rock.
It might be winter where you are right now, or it might be summer. Whatever the weather, this will warm you up or help you enjoy the sun. Turn this record up but just make sure your I-Tunes isn’t sorted alphabetically as Usher might come along, as he did to me, and put a dampener on the party.