Unknown Mortal Orchestra's II
The psychedelic rock trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra returns with their second album, simply titled II. The band takes everything that was exciting about their debut album and makes it better, producing an album that exceeds their spectacular debut. One of the most noticeable improvements is the vocals. Ruban Nielson still handles the vocal duties, but his voice is less distorted. This lends a more intimate feel to the songs, closing some of the distance between the band and the listener that was prevalent on the first album. His voice is really soulful, adding a nice texture to the music. The lead single "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)" is a perfect example of the band's more refined sound. Ruban's voice sounds sweet and melodic, layered on top of some soothing guitar work.
Although the vocals have been cleared up a little, the production is still rather lo-fi (that is, less clear). The guitars manage to sound both grainy and melodic. The one issue with the production is that the bass is usually rather quiet and sometimes barely discernible. And although the word "orchestra" is in their name, the songs are generally not too expansive. It is usually just guitar, bass and drums.
However, they manage not to sound too bare by adding some reverb to the guitar and usually adding a rhythm guitar part which creates texture. It's tough to define just that Unknown Mortal Orchestra is. Their music is simultaneously new and retro, poppy and inaccessible.
They are a band that demands to be actively listened to instead of relegated to the background. Listeners who take the time with II will find a rewarding album for a band that is surely on the rise.
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