Unfortunately as Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s latest album isn’t out until 26th May I won’t be able to include it in my lead up to Liverpool Sound City. So in lieu of that, I’m going to review their last album II to give you an idea of how they sound.
With the spirit of the 70’s drug scene and a feeling of weariness, Unknown Mortal Orchestra manages to capture the feeling that for every ray of sunshine a shadow is cast with their album II. The opening line of the first track From the Sun is “Isolation can put a gun in your hand,” setting the tone for what is to come throughout the whole album – a summer bummer with some catchy hooks.
Swim and Sleep Like a Shark sounds like a Shins song with a touch of Feeling Flows by the Beach Boys with it’s distorted vocals, like listening to music underwater. It’s a trippy summer indie pop song that makes you want to just float away and abandon everything, whilst having definite nihilist themes within the song of sinking to the bottom, falling, hiding, letting yourself be crushed by the world and giving up your dreams.
The soulful So Good at Being in Trouble is about being in a moment of transition, of wanting to put the past of an old love behind you but not wanting to let that dead love go. The protagonist of the song is sad now that his love is gone, but also remembers that she was “So good at being in trouble/So bad at being in love,” lines repeated like a leit motif, echoing his inability to let go and that his state of mind keeps returning him to the start, like an endless loop.
The Opposite of an Afternoon is a jangly, garage guitar track reminiscent of The Kinks’ low-fi rock, whilst retaining all of the ethereality of psyche that permeates the whole album.
The whole album feels like something of a sundowner, or like the drunken haze experienced at the end off a day drinking at the beach. However, much like being drunk, there’s not that many memorable tracks on the album outside of the ones I mentioned – a lot of the album feels like it just drifts along, meanders and melts into one, not leaving you much to hang on to. Whilst I couldn’t recommend the album without reservation, it’s definitely an interesting listen, and I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice not checking out Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Liverpool Sound City.
The album begins with ambient sounds like a whale call suffused in a sea of sound, which segues into Argent - a rhythm guitar track with Weaver’s ethereal vocals, like if the theme tune of Space 1999 or Buck Rogers was vocalised with folkadelia from a questionably utopian society with even more questionable dress sense, and it’s marvellous.
Don’t Take My Soul is an eerie synth laden piece with jangling guitars that lend it a feeling of prog and Weaver’s own voice layered under her haunting lead vocals acting as an otherworldly chorus.
Mission Desire with its transcendent guitars and warped instrumentals lends it a feeling of weightlessness and out of body experience as Weaver’s dreamlike vocals drift over the sonic plain, repeating the haunting refrain “Call mission desire/ Am I still awake?/Am I still alive?” reminding me of the feeling of dislocation, lack of balance and ambiguity of being asleep, awake or even alive reminiscent of Ziggy Stardust. Folk from the future, reminiscent of the sumptuous soundscapes of 70’s SF, with a little Bowie and Goldfrapp thrown in for good measure. If you want to hear what the future sounds like through the filter of psychedelic folk then you should definitely make the time to listen to The Silver Globe and go and see Jane Weaver at Sound City. Trust me, she’s worth the experience.
As I continue my coverage on the lead up to Liverpool Sound City 2015, I thought i’d take on a more local flavour and cover an up and coming band from Liverpool that have been getting some attention of 6 Music recently, All We Are.
Like a funkier Magic Numbers or a low key Bee Gees with a psych twist, there’s a lot to recommend about the local band All We Are. This is especially present in the track Utmost Good, with its funky guitar licks complimenting the mellow funk duet between the two singers, about a relationship on the wane. Keep Me Alive is a duet about the symbiosis between a couple and the dependency on one partner to rely on the other. This is exemplified through the lyrics “I’m giving you all that I can take [...] I need you baby, to keep me alive...” which gives the impression of a love transfusion, that each lover is a life line to each other. A promising debut from a band I hope we hear more from soon. If you’re at Liverpool Sound City, check them out.
Hey guys, I won't be updating this week for The Vinyl Countdown due to it being Easter, but I'll have a new review up next Sunday.
Euphoric, rebellious, vital and alive with the punk energy of early Manics, the garage rock of Blue Album era Weezer and the pop summer nostalgia of Ash. It's an album about being young, being free and just getting out there. The album's opening track An Ivory Hand ruminates on two people who came from the same place but turned out different, and the lessons forgotten and learned by returning home. Burning For No One is about the self-realisation that an unrequited celebrity crush is fruitless, "Like a candle on a vacant table...burning for no one," and is part teenage confessional but also a thank you to the protagonist's crush - he can now move on past an unreal love to something more substantial. This album made me want to jump off sand dunes and have adventures. You should too.
Originally published April 2015 in Kirkby Extra 319.
Monthly music columnist for the Kirkby Extra, sometimes article writer for Get Into This. Freelance writer/artist/maker.