Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Formed by (underrated) Mint Chicks guitarist Ruban Nielson, Unknown Mortal Orchestra sounds like an Elephant 6 band sent back to the ‘70s. They groove on simple funk rhythms, guitars and keys cloaked in a rather thorny kind of reverb, a snare drum happily clanking out a bony backbeat. Nielson’s voice sounds like a cross between Beck and Marc Bolan, and his proficient guitar work periodically steps out into the limelight, like a shy stoner trying out his moves. On the viral “hit” “FFunny FFriends,” Nielson offers up a coolly restrained 30-second break amidst the snaky rhythm parts, and on “Bicycle,” the spare lead is accompanied by a hilarious and charming manipulated vocal approximation of a wah-wah peddle. The garage-punk guitars on “Nerve Damage” are one unexpected delight, among many: “Strangers Are Strange” undulates to a slinky, soul-pop vibe (remember Sly & The Family Stone?), and “Thought Ballune” is a paisley-colored slice of sweet psych-pop that could turn a dark day sunny. The brilliance of “How Can You Luv Me” is evident from the first bit of Fender Mustang funk-twang and percolating bass line. Dance? Try not to.