Unknown Mortal Orchestra burst onto the scene in 2010 seemingly out of no-where after Ruban Nielson (formerly of New Zealand band, The Mint Chicks) posted the song ‘Funny Friends’ anonymously on Bandcamp, catching the attention of many underground blogs with its playful style and lo-fi sound.
The following year the band gained critical acclaim with their self-titled album, a short batch of songs with great pop hooks, technical guitar noodling, breakbeat and dance- based drums and tasteful use of an often overused lo-fi aesthetic.
This year’s follow-up, simply titled II, is a real step above, with a much larger scope than their first release. Each track has been produced to suit its own mood, lyrically, yet they flow seamlessly from one-another, forming a cohesive whole. Upbeat tracks like the single ‘Swim And Sleep (Like A Shark)’ have a fantastic open sound, hard-hitting drums, grooving bass and a confident and often multi-tracked vocal delivery that was lacking in the first album. ‘Monki’ and ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’ bring the mood of the album down with a much more intimate and mournful air, but just when you’re getting all teary, Nielson’s guitar bursts back in to kick-start things again. The closing track ‘Secret Xtians’ has an obvious Beatles influence, but it’s done tastefully and is one the standouts. There’s a wonderfully messy psych-jam in there, and even a Jean-Michel-Jarre-esque synth interlude.
The end result is a dynamic and exciting album full of ups and downs, subtlety and some well-thought-out and meaningful lyrics.