Stuck In the Suburbs

Sophie Hayssen, Co-Editor-In-Chief

It’s difficult to describe II by Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Trust me, I’ve tried. Whenever people ask I always just say, “Oh it’s indie” or “Oh it’s alternative” because those seem like broad enough terms to categorize the album, but I don’t know how accurate they are. The alternative genre encompasses all artists outside the mainstream and as a result is composed of a mish mash of sounds ranging from totally acoustic to completely electric. Most artists fall on either end of the spectrum and have a group of contemporaries with a similar–if not exactly the same–sound. On both these counts UMO’s work on II is entirely unique. It falls smack dab in the middle of the electronic and acoustic range, and, from what I’ve heard, it has no peer. This is not to say that the album is remarkably experimental or that it’s uniqueness is too overwhelming to handle. The songs are catchy and digestible, and work individually as well as in the context of the whole album.

The songs on II work together to create an overall ambiance that is paradoxically dark and relaxed, specifically on songs like the album’s opener “From the Sun” where mildly depressing lyrics like “I’m so lonely but I can never quite reach the phone” play over a mildly uplifting beat. While it may not be the best or catchiest song, “From the Sun” encapsulates the album’s tendency to inhabit an undefinable middle ground, not just sonically but also in its lyrical content. One follows the other. If you listen close enough to the lyrics you can hear how, in their own way, each song is about a lack of fulfillment without giving off an angst-filled vibe. Instead the unfulfillment manifests itself in a slower, more lethargic discontent more akin to boredom than anger. The music accentuates this sense. The acoustics are doctored in such a way that the sound comes out soft and slow, making it an exceptionally easy listen.

II reminds me of the Arctic Monkey’s most recent album, AM. While AM doesn’t share the lo-fi quality that II has, they are both similar in that they are best played late at night or in the early morning. Which one you like more depends on your personal ear. Speaking as a die-hard AM fan, I’ve found II to be a slightly less arresting but equally catchy alternative.

In short, during this bout of bleak and treacherous weather, when you’re stuck inside on Saturdays, and have exhausted all activities that might usually have entertained you, look to II for refuge. In its muffled lo-fi choruses the album will sonically capture your boredom, in the least boring way possible.