It may be bit early for “Best of 2013″ lists, but it’s the middle of 2013 and we’re excited to share our most-repeated new albums from the last six months. Read about some of WVAU’s favorite records released in 2013.
I’m a big fan of letting things speak for themselves, music being no exception. Right now, pause whatever you’re doing and listen to the first track off my favorite album of 2013 so far: “From the Sun” on Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s II.
“From the Sun” sets the stage for what makes this album so great. While themes of subdued retro-pop are easily identifiable, there’s nothing gimmicky about II. In fact, the stark dark to light contrast of the lyrics to the music is what first drew me to UMO. Melancholy and lugubrious words marked by heavy feelings of yearning (“From the Sun” delivers us “I’m so tired but I can never lay down my head / I’m so tired but I can never quite reach the phone,” while “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)” features the crooning of “I wish I could swim and sleep like a shark does / I’d fall to the bottom and I’d hid till the end of time”), contrasted against guitar riffs and basslines that sound the way laying in the grass on your back, watching clouds pass the path of the sun, on a warm day feels.
Plenty of albums were sad this year, and it was a disservice to many of them. II is the rare exception, however, as the band members have a wealth of skill to keep the music interesting and fresh. Example: 1:25 of “From the Sun” marks a transition from dreamy, sweet goodness to a groovy bassline.
What makes UMO stand out in a sea of Portland based, retro-pop inspired groups is their incorporation of funk beats from “From the Sun” to “Secret Xtians” — tracks that move the album into pop perfection.
Like its predecessor, UMO’s self-titled 2011 record, II is home-recorded. There’s a similar production style, but this sophomore album reaches much greater lengths than UMO’s debut. Take the first single “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark),” which features deliciously bright surfer-rock riffs, in contrast with “So Good at Being in Trouble,” an almost painfully soulful jam. II does exactly what it’s supposed to do for the trio: It both solidifies them as a band and brings the sound into their own. There are times when we’re left wondering if they’ve reached their full potential, but that only makes me even more excited for the next release.
By Joanna Dressel