Saturday, December 25, 2021

General Comments

This is the place for any comments you have that don't relate to a specific post. This is a place where you can leave any requests, suggestions and opinions that you have about this blog. It will always remain at the top of the blog so that it is visible to everyone. We can use this as a forum for an open discussion on music in general, as well as just simply saying hi. Let's get the ball rolling.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Unknown Mortal Orchestra- Multi-Love
















Unknown Mortal Orchestra- Multi Love

The trajectory of Ruban Nielsen's career has never been predictable. After becoming completely disenchanted with the record industry when he was playing in the punk band The Mint Chicks, Ruban was really close to leaving music in his rearview mirror. While working as an illustrator for Jacob Portrait's brother, he was working on a self-recorded project that would eventually turn into UMO's self-titled debut record, despite his feelings that no one would be interested in hearing a bunch of guitar solos. Then, after a year of touring left him feeling alienated and desperate, he poured these feelings into the band's second record II, and toured the globe for another world tour. 

Within the past year, his polyamorous relationship with his wife and another woman has provided the lyrical inspiration for the band's soon to be released third record entitled Multi-Love.  Even though the official street date for Multi-Love is May 26, the accolades have already been pouring in from news sources like Pitchfork and Spin, touting it as UMO's best, most accomplished record to date.

When I first heard that UMO had started working on a new record, I was hoping for a better-produced record that was reminiscent of their live show with Ruban's extended guitar solos being pushed to the forefront of the mix alongside the stellar rhythm section of Jacob Portrait and Riley Geare. Instead, Ruban has opted to take this record in the opposite direction, mostly eschewing guitar solos and the band's trademark psychedelic sound for a seemingly more conventional synth-pop sound with elements of jazz, soul and disco.

I have to admit that it took me several listens to wrap my head around this album, but I'm finally starting to appreciate the dedication that it must have taken to achieve the various sounds that make up the record. While the album was taken to another studio to be mastered, it's astonishing that the bulk of the recording process was completed in Ruban's in-house basement studio. You would be hard-pressed to find another album with this level of sonic clarity whose recording took place in the confines of a home studio. This clearly speaks to Ruban's talent as a musician and producer to be able to craft a record with exceptional sound quality without resorting to a big-name producer or professional sound studio. 

The opening track "Multi-Love" was the first single that was leaked to the public back in February. Along with the news of the new album coming in May, this was the public's first taste of what to expect from the new record. Essentially "Multi-love" is an introduction to the new sound that Ruban is going for on the record, a heavily processed, technicolor version of UMO with the vocals way up-front, and a symphony of synthesizers and digitized handclaps serving as the backdrop. This directly leads into "Like Acid Rain", a song that travels back in time to the mid 80's with a sound reminiscent of soul groups like New Edition and Ready For the World, with the slightest tinge of Sly and the Family Stone. It's a short burst of a track whose candy-coated melodies explode with so much energy and enthusiasm that you will be humming along to it for days. Then comes "Ur Life One Night", the song that best exemplifies the UMO sound: complex vocal patterns, upbeat drumming, an infectious sing-along chorus and a compact guitar solo. Next, is the second single released from the album called "Can't Keep Checking My Phone". This is the most overtly pop song in UMO's catalog thus far, and with it's pop-disco sound it wouldn't surprise me in the least bit if it was chosen as the music for the latest Verizon commercial, or as the soundtrack for the latest mainstream, coming-of-age movie.

From here, things get really interesting though. "Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty" features a lightly-strummed acoustic guitar melody with an array of synthesized squiggles that come in and out of the mix.  For the most part, Ruban's vocals are distorted beyond comprehension, but with lyrics that are as poignant as "If we were just strangers, then we'd fall in love again- Abandon extreme wealth and casual cruelty",  you can't help but be moved by the thoughtfulness. Then, a spacy sax solo comes out of nowhere, and takes the song to another level that you didn't think was possible. Immediately following this solo, all of the music drops out except for the vocals, bass and light drumming, putting the focus on the vocals one last time before the bottom drops out into the guitar freakout section of the song.  It really is a phenomenal song that gets better on each successive listen.

The thick bass line is the first thing we hear on "The World Is Crowded", and while it is clearly influenced by D'Angelo and Prince, the song manages to retain it's own identity. It's also the song that features the most soulful vocals from Ruban, and you can actually understand some of the lyrics (Here's hoping that the lyrics will be included with the album). "Stage or Screen" is most reminiscent of UMO's earlier records with extensive phasing on the drums, and twisty melodies that won't leave your mind, until the last minute where it suddenly switches the tempo with a mellow synth outro. On "Necessary Evil", we are treated to a soulful song with bubbly saxophone, eerie keyboards and a brief guitar interlude that is a welcome return to the sound of II.

The closing track "Puzzles" is aptly titled as it's difficult to ascertain how each part of the song fits together, but somehow it all works. Starting off with the sound of glass breaking amidst ominous synths for the first minute of the song, it slowly segues into a beautiful acoustic melody with shuffling drums and what sounds to me like a cello.  Then, a distorted synthesizer or guitar line comes out of nowhere, and thus begins the next part of this song. After the first verse of the song, it goes into an infectious bridge with fantastic drum fills, heavy on the hi-hat. An aggressive guitar riff begins to form right as Ruban sings the chorus in multiple overdubbed voices "I don't want to solve your puzzles anymore". After revisiting the first verse, bridge and chorus, the song switches on a dime to a mellow guitar outro that closes the album on a perfect note.

On Multi-Love, UMO have managed to both exceed and confound expectations. While I would have liked to hear a couple more tracks with extended guitar solos, there will always be the live shows to fulfill this need.  Even though the world is crowded, there is plenty of space for an orchestra of unknown mortals, but they won't continue to be unknown with music of this caliber.

UMO- Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty and Ur Life One Night

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Jeremiah Jae and L-Orange- Cinematic Noir Rap


















L'Orange and Jeremiah Jae- The Night Took Us in Like Family

If you are the kind of person who has a difficult time when an artist you like releases an album that is a little different than what you expected, then you probably don't understand why I've been posting so much hip-hop music lately. Truthfully, I am a child of the 80's, and this was the decade where the seeds of hip-hop started to bloom into an undeniable force of nature that could no longer be ignored by the masses.

Fast forward almost three decades later to 2015, a year where Kendrick Lamar releases an innovative mainstream record with heart and soul, and artists like Ghostface Killah, Adrian Younge and the aforementioned Lamar decided to incorporate live instruments into their usual repertoire of samples and programmed drum beats.  Amongst this bevy of artists experimenting with new sounds is producer/rapper Jeremiah Jae, the leader of the Black Jungle Squad, a coalition of rappers and beat-makers from Chicago, IL. Jae's latest project finds him collaborating with L'Orange, a beat architect from Nashville, TN whose stock in trade is eclectic soul, jazz and psychedelic samples that sound like they were lifted straight from the dusty crates in an abandoned warehouse.

On The Night Took Us in Like Family, Jae's off-kilter flow meshes perfectly with L'Orange's dusty production, creating a hip-hop record that is listenable from beginning to end. There are no skits, no moments wasted and only two guest spots, an amazing verse from Da Gift of Gab on "All I Need", and an especially well-crafted verse from Homeboy Sandman on "Ignore the Man To Your Right. While on some of Jae's previous records I have found his lyrical flow to be a bit lackluster, it is on-point and heading straight for your dome on this record. Highlights are too many to mention, but the two aforementioned cuts are a great place to start, as well as the claustrophobic, piano-centric "Taken By the Night" and the stellar film-noir influenced "Kinda Like Life".  The entire record plays out like the aural equivalent of a 30's gangster film set to dope beats and rhymes. This is a gangster rap for people who are tired of the same old tropes that have plagued the genre since the demise of N.W.A.

Stream it below!

Do yourself a favor, and buy this record at one of the links below!

Vinyl- here
Digital Mp3- here

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Rediscoveries of Lost Gems- Larry Coryell



















Larry Coryell- Coryell

When I was searching my brain for a record that deserved to be rediscovered, I came up with Larry Coryell's self-titled album from 1969 entitled simply Coryell. While Coryell's official recording debut was on Chico Hamilton's The Dealer, this is the record that would cement his reputation as one of the most sought after lead guitarists during the Jazz-fusion era in the 70's. 

From the beginning of the manic guitar solo on "Sex", you can tell that Coryell is not playing around, eventually filtering his guitar through a copious amount of wah-wah and phaser effects. "Beautiful Woman" starts out unassumingly enough, with a pleasing vocal and mellow tone, but the bottom drops out in the last minute with screaming vocals and an especially biting guitar solo. Then, the urgent rhythm of  "The Jam With Albert" comes rushing out the gates, and the rest of the band masterfully compliment Coryell's magnificent solos with an especially knotty back-beat. At over nine minutes long, this song is clearly the centerpiece of the album that places Coryell's talents on full display.  The title of the next track "Elementary Guitar Solo #5" couldn't be more ironic, as Coryell's guitar effortlessly climbs up and down the frets like a madman on a mission. At just under forty minutes, this record is long enough to engage your mind and soul, but still short enough to digest in one sitting.

I hope you enjoy listening to this record, and I would love to hear what you think of it!

Link is in comments.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

UMO: Unveil Multi-Love Operation



















Today, while sifting through my Twitter feed, I noticed a Pitchfork news item that was retweeted by UMO.  I couldn't believe it when the headline of this article read something along the lines of New UMO album and tour dates

As I am not familiar enough with the lead single "Multi-Love" yet, I can only say that the sound of this track is light years away from their last two albums.  The production is practically sumptuous, with crisp drums and synthesizers replacing the requisite psychedelic guitars and reverb.  It's too early to say what my take is on their new direction, but the melodies of this song are already circling through my brain waves.

Have a listen for yourself on their soundcloud page.