After being away for just shy of three months, I'm back to bring you some music recommendations of some of the things I've been listening to. While I'm incredibly back logged, I'll try and keep as fresh and up-to-date as possible for you. With that being said, let's jump into it.
The first album I want to talk about came out roughly a month ago, but it was an album I was incredibly excited about and the band more than delivered. Pala is the second studio release from Friendly Fires following their self-titled 2008 UK hit (both albums off of XL Recordings). The band is from St. Albans, Hertfordshire, UK and have been together since 2006. The band tried to record in a professional studio, but couldn’t seem to focus, so they moved back to where they recorded their first album, in lead singer Ed Macfarlane’s parent’s garage. The band was handpicked by Gucci to soundtrack a worldwide campaign, covering Depeche Mode’s “Strangelove” for an advertisement created by acclaimed director Frank Miller (Sin City, The Spirit).
What's great about this album is that it keeps true to their first major release. Something about their self-titled album was fresh: it was funky, it was hip, but at the same time it wasn't really anything I had heard before. The band does an incredible job of making their music genuine. The lyrics are simple, yet profound; the beats are overpowering, yet seem almost perfectly simplistic. The opening track for Pala, "Live Those Days Tonight," is arguably their strongest track. It's a song that hits the ground running and doesn't stop to take a breath of air. It has a quick drum beat that permeates throughout the entire track and Macfarlane sings "I'll live those days, live those dreams like they are mine" with unending fervor. My second favorite song, "Chimes," epitomizes the bands versatility. Macfarlane's vocals hush down to a whisper at the beginning, but rise and fall throughout his vocal range which compliments the omnipresent chimes, bells, and synthesizers. The album as a whole gives listeners a near perfect listening experiences through its expertly crafted pacing and balance of sounds throughout.
The second album I want to talk about is a bit fresher and is only a couple of weeks old. Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s self-titled album is their first release. They were first noticed for the single “Ffunny Ffrends” on their bandcamp account. Ruban Nielson, the founder of the band, is a New Zealand native and moved to Portland, Oregon with his former band, Mint Chicks. Unknown Mortal Orchestra was what he called “his escape hatch.” Ruban was later joined by Jake Portrait (bass) and Julien Ehrlich (drums), both from Portland. The album is off of Fat Possum Records.
While I didn't think I was going to like Unknown Mortal Orchestra from the get go, they grew on me as I listened to them more and more. They have a sort of quirkiness that is unique and makes them stand out in a time where it seems like being "unique" is what everyone is trying to do. Their sound is almost muffled at times, such as on "How Can You Luv Me." This song has an almost echoed drum track that contrasts with a sharp, crisp bass line. The vocals feel otherworldly in part because they've been tampered with a little bit, but that helps to simultaneously complement both the muffled drums and crisp bass line. The track that has grown on me the most since listening to the band is "Strangers Are Strange." I'm all for the weird, the dark, and good bass lines. This track combines all of these. The quiet staccato of vocals at the beginning, accompanied with the funky bass line provides for an almost dark and ominous sound which perfectly embodies the songs hook "We can be strange, like strangers are strange." Unknown Mortal Orchestra's self-titled album is a strong kick out of the gate in particular because of what they do best: switching up their sound. Listeners would be hard pressed not to find at least one track they like on the album, if not many.
I'm going to push myself to keep the reviews coming and keep your ears full of new music. Thanks for reading and I'll see you soon!