Keen 6music listeners may remember the poppy Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark) from 2012. Its shuffle ensured the Unknown Mortal Orchestra were known Unknowns, and the success of that record, called II, ensured anticipation for their third release, their second on the mighty Jagjaguwar label.
The album’s title alludes to bandleader Ruban Nielson’s love life, as detailed in a cover story for Pitchfork. He now lives in Portland with his wife and son, after briefly living with an additional and much younger partner in the marital home. The Multi-Love arrangement has ended, and there is definitely an offbeat weirdness in the album’s lyrics born of that experience.
Having toured with sonic maestros Grizzly Bear and Foxygen, it is no surprise that the UMO sound is woozy epicness, like a 6am show at Coachella or The Decemberists recording in January with some synthesisers. This album’s playlisted hit is Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, which has that great percussive shuffle and up-the-stairs bass of the best tunes; it even has a Roland-808 drum machine, which will transport listeners to 1987. Necessary Evil is another bouncy song with horns, processed guitars and a wonderful summertime groove.
Scritti Politti is the influence on the title track, a falsetto vocal and interesting instrumentation setting the mood; the opening vocalised riff of Like Acid Rain is endorphins, the kind of hook Bruno Mars writes before counting all his Uptown Funk money. Ur Life One Night is almost an homage to Prince, with the vocoded synths and multi-tracked, multi-lovely vocals.
Puzzles (“I don’t want to solve your puzzle any more!”) opens with the sound of broken glass, like Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album. Those who love that record will love Multi-Love. The album is full of hooks and choruses that are all immediate and punchy; what’s far from unknown is Nielson and company’s grasp of what makes soulful pop so shiny.
Multi-Love by Unknown Mortal Orchestra can be ordered here.