Unknown Mortal Orchestra continue their transition into the best funk band from another dimension with Multi-Love. The title track sounds like Stevie Wonder on a space-rock kick, as frontman Ruban Nielson raspily sings of polyamorous affairs over proggy movements and danceable beats. “Like Acid Rain’s” disintegrated R&B dazzles and melts in your ears. “The World Is Crowded’s” lockstep groove accompanies lush soul vocals singing quizzical lyrics, asking “did she blow my brains out?” like a robot waking up from a one-night stand. And “Ur Life in One Night” takes the psychedelic-leaning funk and soul of the ’70s and making it sound truly interstellar, as though Curtis Mayfield and Funkadelic records were transmitted via satellite to an alien galaxy, and this was the responding message. But however proudly UMO wave their freak flag, Multi-Love is still rooted in reality. “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” begins on a film-noir opening, with cinematic horns, booty-shaking jungle drums and 007 riffs growing into curious melodies that curl into an earworm chorus on perhaps their best song yet. Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s particular universe is perplexing only until you get your footing; then you’ll never want to leave. It’s one of the best things we’ve heard all year.
Courtney Love – “Miss Narcissist”
Courntey Love has a new single out on Nathan Williams of Wavves’ Ghost Ramp label. Scoff if you want, but it’s not half bad, signaling the notorious singer may be on the road to musical recovery after a rocky past decade and a half or so. Love’s been more public as of late, speaking about the Kurt Cobain documentary she helped authorize, Montage of Heck, and appearing on shows like Empire and recording music for that show’s soundtrack. Her music’s usually been more interesting than her antics, and “Miss Narcissist” shows she’s got plenty of tunes left up her sleeve. Look for the vinyl 7” of “Miss Narcissist” and B-side “Radio Killer” this summer.
Ariel Pink – “I Need a Minute”
Ariel Pink has released a new song from the film Heaven Knows What, the new cinema verite/narrative film about a heroin addict who finds love in New York City (it’s showing this Saturday at Cinefamily). Pink created more than 45 minutes of music for the film, but “I Need a Minute” ended up being what was used. The vocally warped synth ballad will be released as a 7”. Listen via Pitchfork, and watch the trailer for Heaven Knows What below. The film is directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, stars Arielle Holmes and is based on Holmes’ forthcoming memoir, Mad Love in New York City.
Tanlines have always stood out among the crowded field of electro-pop bands. Their 2012 debut, Mixed Emotions, was clever without being pretentious, cute without being cloying, and hooky as hell to the point that we'd go see them play live years after the fact and without a new album.
Now, with a sturdy new album finally under their belts, the reliably fine live band came out to Amoeba Hollywood May 19 to play a set from the just-released Highlights. The duo (live, a quartet) launched into their first-ever Amoeba set with countryish ballad “Invisible Ways,” a bold choice since it’s one example of how Highlights hops genres and strays from the electro-pop mold, but it’s also one of the album's best songs and a chance for singer Eric Emm to do his best Bryan Ferry over jangling chords.
“We’re not used to seeing this many CDs in the audience,” bassist/keyboardist/percussionist Jesse Cohen said before diving into the surf-rocky new wave of “Slipping Away.” “I love that song!” he said as they tended to their sound and intro’d Mixed Emotions’ “Brothers,” awash with synth and ratcheting forward on live electronic drums. The moody “Bad Situations” followed, again nicely featuring live electronic drums and Emm’s breaking croon.
Hot Chip - Why Make Sense?
Hot Chip’s latest album title, a sentiment borrowed from their forebears in Talking Heads, is a great guiding principle for the British electro-pop band. Their sixth studio album finds the group abandoning any art-pop pretenses as well as any desire to become overtly mainstream and produce some of its best music yet. “Huarache Lights’” synths pulse like sirens that push your ass to start moving. Over a cyborg beat, Alex Tayor sings, “we’ve been staying up all night, just deleting the days,” instantly summoning the decadence or temporarily losing yourself on the dancefloor. Hot Chip can get a little goofy, giving a potentially heartfelt ballad the lyrical content and title of “White Wine and Fried Chicken,” but things never approach Chromeo levels of silliness, elegantly striking the balance between earnestness and not giving a shit. This serves to make their sonic mining of ’80s genres like synth-funk and house work smoothly—they’re not too self-serious to pull off such sounds while still paying adequate homage to those influences. It doesn’t hurt that the band has never sounded more confident, nor has the music sounded so strong since their breakthrough second album, The Warning, particularly as on the sublime, ethereal house track “Need You Now.” Spin it a few times and the band’s sly hooks take hold and don’t let go. Why Make Sense? makes the case that Hot Chip continue to be the best band of their kind.
L.A.’s King Tuff first hit big with his 2012 self-titled debut, a rollicking collection of lo-fi pop rock jams about how awesome it is to be “Alone & Stoned,” among other subjects. He followed with 2014’s heavier and headier Black Moon Spell, which looks to proto-metal titans like Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath for inspiration while still retaining his signature pop hooks and catchy riffs. Watch the video for “Black Moon Spell” below for a taste.