Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s attempts at capturing the complexities of human emotion have been a steady progression, and have been shown without fail in their self-titled debut as well as their sophomore album II. Now, on the band’s third studio album, observations on heartbreak have been meticulously disguised as upbeat joyous sound, all with frontman Ruben Nielson at the helm.
When listening to Multi-Love as a whole, its clear that each individual song was crafted with care, considering Nielson’s diy abilities when it comes to rebuilding synths by hand as well as his intense infatuation with retro instrumental equipment. Because of this, the songs have a loving, personal touch, which also has something to do with their overall context. Title track “Multi-Love” highlights the characteristics of a complex relationship, and as a result, the song sounds like it’s working through several different struggles at once. While it would have the tendency to be convoluted, it actually sounds refined, luxurious, and absolutely mesmerizing. The lyrics are unique and quirky, and evokes everything from rock-star lifestyles, references to norse mythology, and even Nielson’s love for a certain Japanese restaurant. Whether “Multi-Love” proves to be about a polyamorous relationship or not, it remains as the inspiration for one of the best songs of UMO’s career, and is an absolute treat for the ears and the mind alike. “Like Acid Rain” picks things up with an inspiring vocal track, while “Ur Life One Night” brings out more of the psychedelic funk that the album rides on. This proves to be the band’s own brand of sound, which is odd but refreshing at the same time. “Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty” is just that – an eerie romp in the existential hay, leaving behind thoughts of despair and desolation. “Stage or Screen” and “Necessary Evil” are perhaps the two best examples of the 70’s funk aesthetic, but they are also the most simple, evading all that it could have been. The latter is more complex and introspective of the two, with an addictive guitar funk beat that meshes remarkably well with Nielson’s wavering, giddy voice. Throughout the album, the emotions claw at the edges, all with the intent of packaging such a large amount of memories inside such a tightly bound package. Because of this, at times the music sounds the smallest bit restrained towards the end, which is a bit of a let down, considering their pure, unadulterated passion in expressing emotion.
With that being said, Multi-Love is still a free-flowing masterpiece, and the best song, along with the title track, has to be “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone,” where the frustrations with modern technology is put on display. The pulsating synth is what separates it from the rest, and the overall disco groove is a great representation for the album as a whole. Heartbreak is a valid excuse for such deep, complex intricacies, but what makes this album a winner is the way the band hides them underneath such addictive, optimistic sounds.
photo by Dusdin Condren