|Photo by: NPR.org|
Key Tracks: "For The Sun," "So Good At Being In Trouble"
Unknown Mortal Orchestra's sophomore album II takes inspiration from bands past and present.
The record has a heavy vintage vibe as heard through the group's hazy synthesizers paired with a multitude of cool guitars. The band mixes ideas from The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Black Keys all wrapped into one lo-fi package.
The first half of the album gives a taste of the group's different flavors of neo-psychedelia. "From The Sun" introduces the group's laid back rock with a certain fuzziness, heard through the soft and slightly distant vocals. The opening guitar plucking sounds effortlessly chill and sets the stage for everything to come.
While "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)" follow the '70s rock path, it definitely takes a strong influence from indie rock staple The Shins. To start, UMO's guitar follows similar chord progressions that are commonly heard in the latter group's work.
When lead singer Ruban Nielson sings, "I'd fall to the bottom / And I'd hide 'til the end of time," he sounds eerily similar to The Shins' frontman James Mercer. While Nielson's vocal style is a bit smoother and more relaxed than Mercer's, the overall subtle, whimsical and upbeat surf rock tone is definitely reminiscent of Mercer's Wincing The Night Away.
On "So Good At Being In Trouble," Nielson's smooth and sultry voice lures the listener straight to the bearskin rug and fireplace while the bass guitar bounces smoothly in the background. All together, Nielson manages to stretch the same 10 lines into a sentimental but sexy love song.
The second half of the album is not nearly as strong as the first, but it still produces some decent tracks. "No Need For A Leader" is a straight-forward rock track. The lead guitar and bass bring a darker mood and break up the bright tone of the tracklist in a good way. "Faded In The Morning" is heavier sounding with a stronger bass line and edgier vocals.
Overall, II solidifies the band's work in indie rock that was set forth in their first record. However, it seems likely that the group will remain under the radar. UMO's psych-rock is interesting but doesn't seem to have the potential to make a lasting impact just yet. Perhaps the group can look at the classic and modern bands it takes influence from and learn how to copy their success.
Until then, Unknown Mortal Orchestra will continue to stay unknown.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra's sophomore album II takes inspiration from bands of the past and present.
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