Artist: Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Buzz Factor: 4/5
When I was a kid, I amassed quite the Lego collection. At each garage sale my mom dragged me to, I’d pick through the messes of old books and toys no longer needed by the neighborhood boy now off to college and find the ever-present tub of Lego bricks. After a childhood of summers in this tradition, I eventually wound up with a bigger collection than any other kid on the block. I was very proud of my pre-pubescent accomplishment; I remember feeling a thorough joy simply in the sheer quantity of multi-colored construction toys spread before me on my bedroom floor. It’s like the feeling when the delivery guy hands you the pizza, or you put an old favorite record on again for the umpteenth time, or (how I imagine) Jay Leno feels when he takes one of his vintage corvettes out for a drive. Although the experience—the taste, the sound, or the wind blowing in your gently feathered, silver hair-helmet—is nothing new, it still harbors the same magic romance as the first time. And that’s pretty much how II, the sophomore effort from weird psychedelic rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra, comes across.
You won’t find many (if any) new textures coming from UMO on this follow-up to 2011’s self-titled debut. It’s a lot of the same AM radio tones, meandering guitars, and shy vocals swimming in flange already familiarized by their first record. But the maxim rings true, if it ain’t broke—don’t fix it. And certainly UMO have not taken any new approaches on II. There are the occasional tastes of fresh ideas, like the sudden impact of the marching refrain on “One at a Time,” or the tasteful R&B grooving of “So Good at Being in Trouble,” but these brief departures, while exciting, actually seem to make UMO’s returns to their standard rhythm that much more appetizing.
What it all essentially boils down to is that, although UMO have decidedly offered no substantial or impressive growth from their first album, the tried-and-true formula that succeeded on the first go also succeeds on the second. Rather than a second chapter, II seems more like a second installment, one that perpetuates and permeates and eventually, lends itself to a collective catalog which, as a whole, repeatedly offers the exact same innate joy it did the first time you heard “Ffunny Ffriends.”