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Thursday, September 16, 2021

CD Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Artist: Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Album: II
Rating: 3

Second albums can often be a treacherous step for independent bands who’ve gained acclaim on the Net; the continual quest in the blogosphere for a new sound or the single of the day from among a multitude of interesting groups can often result in a band’s sophomore effort being dismissed as too similar (or worse: too “produced”) in comparison to the first. Luckily, Unknown Mortal Orchestra sidesteps this folly, with II providing an even-tempered expansion of the style laid out on their self-titled debut in 2011.

The sound can be described as a sun-baked ride through faded 1960s West Coast utopia; fuzzy bass interlocks with drum breaks worthy of hip-hop instrumentals, centered around distorted, classically psychedelic guitars and reverby, sibilating vocals. On some tracks, the inclusion of piano and synthesizer adds a degree of depth not heard on their even more lo-fi first album. Nevertheless, II does not immediately grab one’s attention as much as the previous album, whose abandoned, uptempo summer-of-love melodies were endlessly repeatable.

Despite these facts, II is a solid effort that may improve one’s opinion further upon more intent listening. Overall, the album is more downtempo and expressive than its predecessor, and is more than adequate for long gazes into a sunrise (or sunset).

Give These Tracks a Listen: “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark),” “Monki”
For Fans Of: Tame Impala, The Flaming Lips, MGMT

— Andrew Russell

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