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April 30, 2018 | by  | in Arts Music | [ssba]

Sex & Food: Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Sex & Food is the latest from Ruban Nielson’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra, a group that has morphed into one of my favourite bands over the last few years. Their previous three albums are all stellar, and I still revisit them frequently, so I was pretty hyped for this new release.

Sex & Food is probably more akin to II than Multi-Love, but continues the development of the projects sound. Standouts “Hunnybee” and “Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays” emanate from the same palette as the dancey singles from Multi-Love, showcasing this groups signature funky groove, and the down-tempo “Not In Love We’re Just High” and album-closer “If You’re Going To Break Yourself” showcase Nielson’s ability to hold back in an arrangement – restraint is such an effective and under-utilized tool in popular music today. With that said, he also knows when to expand and build up an arrangement, as showcased in “Not In Love…”. All in all, this album seems to draw from the best facets of each of the projects previous albums, and blends these styles with success (generally).

Sex & Food shares many of its technical highlights with previous records as well. I love how Nielson’s voice sits in the mix, and is filtered through all manner of effects. I love the effortless pop songwriting. I love the direct and often quirky lyricism. My qualm is that (arguably) the best track (“American Guilt”) shakes me out of the songs surrounding it, in a way that makes the tracks directly after it seem a little pedestrian. I think this is a result of shaking up an album of cohesive, largely down-tempo songs with a garage rock track that doesn’t necessarily fit the template. On the other hand, this band has never been one to follow a template, and perhaps my perspective on this will change with continued listening.

My nitpicking inclinations are pretty minimal though, this album is still very very good. UMO has a winning formula, and this album makes it four wicked albums out of four. Get stuck in, and catch them live in Welly in September.


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