Unknown Mortal Orchestra's music has often explored feelings of dizzying isolation, but on their third LP, New Zealand-born frontman Ruban Nielson embraces the power of three. Taking cues from the bubbly soul of Stevie Wonder and the melodrama of the Tijuana Brass, Nielson offers low-fi musings on a polyamorous relationship that ended when his lover was forced out by a woeful immigration policy. All the psychedelic cool in the world can't hide his ire: "America, open up your doors/Is it right to always fight against the other?" he pleads on "Puzzles." Just as in his personal life, Multi-Love sees Nielson coloring outside the lines for a vibrant vision of connection. by SUZY EXPOSITO
Seeing Unknown Mortal Orchestra live and hearing them on record are two remarkably different experiences. The Portland-via-New Zealand psych rock band dealt lo-fi pop on their first two albums, 2011’s self-titled and 2013’s II, but live, they tumble around in the dirt, extending themselves into the territory of The Grateful Dead and Phish where closing stanzas quadruple in length. Both versions of their sound have attracted a following, the former among critics and the latter among tie-dye-everything bros. That combination led to an assumption that third album Multi-Love would better spotlight the band’s 10-minute jams. Frontman Ruban Nielson, contrarian that he is, did the opposite.
Multi-Love is a sanguine adventure into utopian disco driven by slabs of funk. Nielson kept busy with ’70s sounds before, but while he used to mirror Frank Zappa, he now captures the aura of Prince and early Queen. The change works. BY NINA CORCORANUnknown Mortal Multi Love
Multi-Love is a sanguine adventure into utopian disco
Coloring outside the lines for a vibrant vision of connection