Much To Love About Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Latest Release

Unknown Mortal Orchestra‘s latest release, Multi-Love, takes the sound of the band’s previous albums and mixes it with a laid back funk. While there have always been some funk elements buried in Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s material, Multi-Love brings it to the forefront without forgetting the other parts of the band.

The opening and title track of the album starts things off right. “Multi-Love,” comparatively, is more like their previous material–airy, textural, and constantly building. With melodies that are less funky than other tracks, “Multi-Love” begins with silky falsetto and a playful keyboard riff. Then the drums kick in. Providing a substantial energy boost, the percussion in “Multi-Love” ties the song to the rest of the album in a tangible way.

From this opening track, Unknown Mortal Orchestra checks all its apprehensions about making a pop-funk album. “Like Acid Rain” begins like a lost Prince track (circa Around The World in a Day), and “Ur Life One Night” continues this trend with its over-effected and bouncing guitar line. That said, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, while definitely using sounds that are funk-staples, stretches its vocals to reach a Prince-like sensuality.

No more does Ruben Nielson hide behind psychedelic vocal effects. Throughout Multi-Love, the singer/guitarist demonstrates just how shimmering his voice can be. On the album’s fourth track, “Can’t Stop Checking My Phone,” Nielson shows not only his range but also how he can nimbly he can bounce through complex and shifting rhythms.

“Can’t Stop Checking My Phone” layers swift and light drumming and one of the funkier bass lines I’ve heard in a minute with a jittering lead guitar. The different layers creates a kaleidoscope of sound that seems unworldly full before the vocals even start. However, Nielson finds a way to pour his sweet falsetto over the instrumentals. His start and stop delivery gives the song a dancier syncopation and makes it one of my favorite tracks of the album.

Multi-Love is one of those albums that showcases a band that has a style but is also able to play whatever they want. From start to finish, it has some of the catchiest songs I’ve heard by Unknown Mortal Orchestra. There’s a palpable continuity from their previous releases to this album, but Multi-Love is definitely a departure from their established sound.

The penultimate track, “Necessary Evil,” shows this. In many ways, the song sounds like a cousin to “So Good At Being In Trouble.” That said, there’s some aspect to it that seems like Prince revamped. Perhaps, it’s the song’s guitar work that screeches out sporadically from the bass groove. Or maybe it’s Nielson’s vocals being (somewhat) unadorned. In any case, the song acts as an anchor between this album’s sound and their other records.

As I said above, Multi-Love shows an extremely talented band making music that is fun and challenges them. The album’s nine tracks have dazzling moments that keep you hooked from start to end. Its laid-back funk sound is a much needed addition to the indie scene (complementing without rehashing the sound of bands like Tame Impala, Toro Y Moi, Washed Out, etc).

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