Initially, Unknown Mortal Orchestra (UMO) gained popularity when Ruban Nielson, UMO’s songwriter, lead singer, and guitarist, uploaded the track “Ffunny Ffriends” back in 2010 on Bandcamp. By 2011, the psych-rock band released its self-titled debut album. Since then in a seven years timespan, the band of New Zealand origin has released three additional albums to include the recently released Sex & Food. For UMO’s tour stop at the 9:30 Club, it was apparent the band’s catalog over the years has garnered them an immense amount of love and respect amongst their fans.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra frontman Ruban Nielson may have relocated to Portland, Oregon several years ago, but his home country of New Zealand still lays claim to him, as evidenced by his band’s win of “Best Alternative Album” and nominations for “Album of the Year” and “Single of the Year” in the New Zealand Music Awards for their latest album, Multi-Love. It’s only a small part of the success story of UMO in 2015, as the release catapulted them from cult band status to the limelight in seemingly no time. That accomplishment was shown on Wednesday night in Washington, DC, as the band played their first (nearly sold-out) headlining show at the 9:30 Club after having been at the much smaller U Street Music Hall only eight months earlier.
10. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - II
Expanding on the jangly, lo-fi sound of UMO’s debut, the trio seem to find a harmony between noodly-jamming and bonafide pop songs, all while keeping that four-track sound.
10. Deerhunter – Monomania
When not in various side projects, the members that make the Atlanta five-piece write under the prolific name Deerhunter. With that said, Bradford Cox and his group have recorded a true garage rock classic that would make T. Rex proud. Standouts like “T.H.M.” and “Monomania” show the band leaning back toward the gritty feel of Cryptograms as apposed to their dreamy previous piece, Halcyon Digest.
9. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
The London duo have produced quite the aggressive album for the 2013 summer. With everything from retro-gaming synths (Prince’s Prize) to chainsaw-house beats by way of Portishead (The Red Wing), Fuck Buttons have made another contribution to the electronic world after a stint of producing for the London Olympics.
8. Wild Nothing - Empty Estate EP
Jack Tatum has always referenced his love for 80’s dream pop but no album has come as close to that scene as Empty Estate. Tatum has stated that this EP finds him experimenting with new sounds (or at least new to him) and rightfully so. “A Dancing Shell” is the first time you’ll hear a sax in a Tatum-penned song.
SOUNDS LIKE: Guided By Voices, MGMT, Bass Drum Of Death
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: This Portland by-way-of New Zealand trio have a new label and a new single to boot!
It's not quite clear what Portland, Orgeon's Unknown Mortal Orchestra are trying to tell their listeners when they want to swim, even sleep like a shark. It's either to float and stare at the night skies in the middle of the sea, something I doubt sharks really think about, or the more plausible desire to hunt for blood. It is the age old saying of to kill or to be killed one could conclude. All of these things are possibly what could be on their minds, amidst a nice 4/4 beat, a twangy guitar, and a near-falsetto that just reminds one of anything off of that first MGMT album.
"Swim And Sleep (Like A Shark)" is the first new song from UMO since signing to Jagjaguwar this week. The song is available on a new tour only 7" with another new song on the b-side, so make sure you pick it up when you see them with Grizzly Bear this coming month.