Year in Review: Most Overlooked Album – UMO II

As part of the ‘Year in Review’ series, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s sophomore album II has been chosen as 2013’s most overlooked album.

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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.

Year in Review: Top 10 Albums

As part of the “Year in Review” series, I’ve compiled my top 10 albums of 2013.

Whilst many artists don’t like these lists, it is usually because they aren’t in them.

I urge you to have a listen to the ‘key tracks’ if you haven’t heard them before, and if you’re feeling super crazy, comment with your top 10 below!

Here we go…

10. Palma Violets – 180
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This raw, punk debut from English band Palma Violets captures a sound that matches their energetic, booze filled live shows. They definitely deserve the attention NME and Rolling Stone paid them this year.
Key Track: Best of Friends

9. Childish Gambino – Because the Internet
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I’ve only had about a week to sit on this one and I really dig it. If you want the full experience of Childish ‘Troy from Community’ Gambino’s playful and extremely clever music, read the screenplay that accompanies it. It’s epic.
Key Track: 3005

8. Foals – Holy Fire
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With their third album, Foals produced a tight and hard hitting sound, they smoked less Weed during the recording of this album and it shows.
Key Track: Inhaler

7. Jagwar Ma – Howlin
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These lads from Sydney managed to break overseas as well as tearing the Australian scene apart with their psychedelic/dance sound. They’ve got a big future ahead of them; after all, Noel Gallagher proclaimed that ‘the future of the galaxy depends on this album.’
Key Track: Come Save Me

6. Arctic Monkeys – AM
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Arctic Monkeys are a band that has matured aesthetically and musically in their now 11 year history. AM still has the grit from their early days with an almost funkier vibe, accompanied by some smooth falsetto from drummer Matt Helders.
Key Track: Do I Wanna Know?

5. Disclosure – Settle
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In my opinion, this UK dance duo should have won the Mercury Prize over James Blake. This debut album will get any party started.
Key Track: When a fire Starts to Burn

4. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
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Technically classified a mixtape, not an album. Chance is an unsigned artist from Chicago. For more information, have a read of this phenomenally written piece.
Key Track: Favourite Song

3. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II
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This New Zealand band brought out this sun soaked album in the prime of the Australian Summer, the psychedelic pop infused guitar lines and vocal melodies made this an awesome album that not enough people know about.
Key Track: So Good at Being In Trouble

2. Kanye West – Yeezus
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It is quite hard to deny that Kanye is a genius. This album polarised fans and is a hectic 10 track epic. Have a look at this recent graphic published in the New York Times.
Key Track: Bound 2

1. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
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If you haven’t heard Get Lucky the lead single of the RAM, I congratulate you. Even if Get Lucky were not on this album, it would still be a phenomenal throwback to the 70’s from the French duo that was marketed ridiculously well and in my opinion, lived up to the hype.
Key Track: Doin’ It Right

Honourable mentions:
Wavves – Afraid of Heights
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Don’t agree with my choices? Don’t bicker and mumble to yourself. COMMENT BELOW.