Album Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra ‘II’

Unknown Mortal Orchestra II

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a three-piece band by way of New Zealand and the United States. Most place associations with the band are given to the lead-singer, Ruban Nielson’s New Zealand roots. Nielson moved to Portland and shortly after formed Unknown Mortal Orchestra with bassist Jake Portrait and drummer Riley Geare.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, like many low-fi bands, had modest beginnings with just a Bandcamp profile. After much support from blogs and internet fame, the band was signed to Fat Possum Records. They now have found home with Jagjaguar, labelmates to diverse acts such as Okkervil River and Bon Iver.

In listening to the opening track, I knew that I would love the album. It was a guided listen in that a co-worker had tossed on the band’s album and without knowing who the artist was, the opening tune “From the Sun,” had me enough to purchase the album later on that evening. The song, like many others on the album, has an effortless cool sound that I associate with acts like Lou Reed and the Kinks.

The album’s first single titled “So Good at Being in Trouble” is the perfect blened of soul with the airy garage-rock vocals; sounding like it was picked off of the Black Keys’ album Brothers. The tune “Opposite of Afternoon” captures most of the reasons why I love the Kinks. In that respect, it’s astounding to consider how many years the lazy-rock sound has carried. The albums edgier tunes “One at a Time” and “No Need for a Leader” reflect a more psychedelic sound that Tame Impala has come to champion.

I’m growing a little tired of both writing and reading about bands who reference a sixties garage rock sound. I suppose what this boils down to here is that the sound is back, although, I’m not certain as to whether it ever left. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, unlike many other new garage rock bands, has a significantly more organic and pretty sound to them. One that I think would translate extremely well live.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra II is playful and light as it is complex but never complicated, making for a delightful, effortless listen.

Stream it here

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