NYU's Independent Student Newspaper

Unknown Mortal Orchestra album lacks style, variety

Unknown Mortal Orchestra first set themselves apart from other indie bands two years ago with a soft, psychedelic-pop foundation layered with elements of alternative, garage rock and lo-fi. Frontman Ruban Nielson provided a sample from his psychedelic lo-fi project titled “Ffunny Ffrends,” which was an immediate success, causing listeners to scour the Internet in search for another UMO gem.

Despite his sudden popularity, Nielson hid from the spotlight, working on material before releasing the band’s self-titled debut album with bassist Jacob Portrait and drummer Riley Geare. However, it’s difficult to follow up such an impressive entrance into the music world. “II,” UMO’s sophomore effort, fails to meet the standard that Nielson had so proudly set.

For a band that enjoys incorporating various sounds into their routine, UMO doesn’t showcase anything unique on “II.” In fact, little is dynamic or interesting on “II.” Many songs on “II” are accompanied by unnoticeable hooks and relentlessly apathetic bass lines, which make Nielson’s vocals unbearable.

While Nielson’s androgynous vocals capture the band’s genre-eluding sound, it is a major problem for the album as a whole. His voice works well when paired with the band’s trademark style, but it falls apart on the majority of “II’s” tracks due to the disparity between the two albums’ aesthetics. This issue is unfair to both Nielson, who is quite talented, and the listener, who has to sit through 40 minutes of vocals incongruous to the rest of the album.

With a well-received debut in their pocket, bands will often use their second album to explore different genres — listen to MGMT’s “Congratulations,” for instance. However, in UMO’s situation, it doesn’t make sense to sail away into new, unfamiliar territory after having just begun to develop a new genre. Hopefully Neilson and his bandmates will consider reverting back to their preciously eccentric sound.

Kemet Dugue is a staff writer. Email him at [email protected]

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2 Responses to “Unknown Mortal Orchestra album lacks style, variety”

  1. superunknown on February 5th, 2013 6:32 am

    Hmm, interesting. I think the low-fi production takes more than a few listens to get your head around these new songs. The test will be how they come across live.

  2. james on February 5th, 2013 9:34 am

    @superunknown you can hear two tracks live here, starting at 2:09, on BBC6 yesterday

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NYU's Independent Student Newspaper
Unknown Mortal Orchestra album lacks style, variety