Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Sex & Food
Jagjaguwar · April 06, 2018
Walking into any album by Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a journey within itself, so with their fourth album Sex & Food, it’s really no surprise that this album takes you across the world in the most otherworldly way. Sole songwriter Reuben Nielson founded Unknown Mortal Orchestra based on creating music that digs deep into the concaves of inner truths and emotions and to “hatch a new music dimension.” In the last and most well-known album, Multi-Love, it was revealed that the story revolved around a tumultuous whirlwind of polyamory with his wife and another girl they brought into the relationship. It was a fascinating story, but easily warped how the audience listened to the album. According to Nielson, he wanted to take a new angle with Sex & Food by letting the songs speak for themselves instead of him talking, and these songs really do speak.
When creating this album, Nielson relied on a portable recording setup as he traveled across the world to places like South Korea, Iceland, Portland (the Oregon one), Mexico, and Vietnam. The eclectic places he chose to travel to reflect the eclectic sound of the album and showcases the breadth of Unknown Mortal Orchestra while also adding something new to the mix. The first couple albums depended on the heavy psychedelic rock guitar while Multi-Love experimented with lighter synths that float you somewhere else. Sex & Food throws both genres into a new kind of musical tossed salad. Nielson grabs your hand and yanks you from the Jimmy Hendrix-influenced 70s rock jam of ‘Major League Chemicals’ to the sleepier graphics of ‘The Internet of Love’ to the synthy dance vibes of E’verybody Acts Crazy’ (which weirdly reminds of Bill Wurtz’s “History of Japan” video and honestly? I’m into it).
However, the real standouts are ‘American Guilt’ and ‘Hunnybee.’ The former feels more of a classic rock and roll track, with a crackling guitar and rough vocals singing lyrics like “Land of the expensive, even the Nazis are crying,” and ends with the same feeling as jumping off a cliff and freefalling into a psychedelic haze. It’s a trip and a half. On the other hand, the latter fits the more listenable yacht rock aesthetic that you could imagine being played in a room with wood paneling and shag carpeting. The catchy chorus of “Hunnybee, hunnybee, there’s no such thing as sweet honesty,” makes this song something I would recommend to someone who just wants to dip their toes into the world of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. It’s something to sit back and bob your head to.
There’s nothing that lives within Sex & Food that jumps out as surprising, but this isn’t a bad thing. Sex & Food is a dignified exploration into what Unknown Mortal Orchestra have done best in their past albums. The one thing that I would consider a letdown is that the album starts strong, but then tapers out with the last couple songs before ‘Not in Love We’re Just High’ being a bit forgettable. That being said, the songs as well as the impressive production are compelling enough to make up for this weak spot. This is an album Reuben Nielson should be proud of, and it’s an album people should talk about. And the best part: it gets better with each listen.