Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Blue Record

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AllMusic Review by

After the release of Unknown Mortal Orchestra's second album, II, the group's main sonic architect Ruban Nielson was asked to appear on various radio stations to play some songs from the record acoustically. Having just started playing non-electric guitar, he treated the opportunity as a learning experience, and also as a chance to step outside the swirling neo-psych sound the band was known for to try something more direct. After getting a good handle on how to make the acoustic sound work for him, Nielson set up a mike in his basement and recorded the Blue Record. Made up of three songs from the II album ("Swim & Sleep [Like a Shark]" "Faded in the Morning," and "So Good at Being in Trouble") and two covers (Dirty Projectors' "Swing Lo Magellan" and a slightly warped take on the early Beck song "Puttin' It Down" from Stereopathetic Soulmanure), the short EP gives a nice behind-the-scenes look at the (mostly) bare bones of Nielson's songs before they get all tarted up with interesting arrangements. He proves to be a very fluid acoustic guitar player and the more emotional vocal style suits the occasion well. The two covers are less interesting, but still fun. The real treat is hearing the songs from II stripped down, and while Nielson would be well-served by sticking with the colorful mess of sound the band seemingly effortlessly creates, he could go the melancholy troubadour route and make that work too. Blue Record is certainly proof of that.

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