2013 Albums of the Year: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II


The Telescope presents: the top albums of 2013. We gathered best-of lists from staff and contributors, crunched some numbers and came up with twelve records that unanimously wowed us this year.

I have no idea why, but my phone played this record backwards when I was listening to it for the umpteenth time, this time with a mind to reviewing it.

What becomes clear when you read the album backwards, is that “Dawn” actually comes near the end of the record, and the following songs, “Faded In The Morning” and “Secret Xtians,” offer no respite to a long, challenging night that begins with “From The Sun” (video above) and progresses through “The Opposite Of Morning.”

That the album is a lunar movement in its song progression and thematics makes II none the more easy to come to grips with. It’s instrumentally difficult; it languishes in the desire to be elsewhere, at the bottom of the ocean, alone and leaderless, and it sounds like nothing else out there right now (at least nothing that’s being produced today).

In other words, it demands that you relisten.

Moreover, it’s really nice to hear music that’s based formally in a natural phenomenon, even if that phenomenon is used to create conversations about religious idiocy, organizational oppression, and mental illness to name a few.

The production is soft, warm, but sharp: a telltale sign that UMO are paying close attention to more than just the complex theme of the album or the image of their band, which has oscillated from the anonymous to the political.

Every musician that I’ve introduced to II or UMO’s excellent self-titled first release listens with their mouths open. Anecdotal for sure, but the dexterity of “Swim And Sleep (Like A Shark),” it’s ability to fly away from itself into what feels like the sublime, is surely a feeling that everyone who listens takes with them.

-Telescope Staff


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