Upright Behavior, the second album from Brooklyn outfit Landlady, is at times a philosophical meditation on death and aging, filtered through a lens of soulful, sometimes difficult, and frequently playful art rock. The project began back in 2011 as the solo vessel for indie scene wunderkind Adam Schatz, who is also a member of Man Man and Father Figures when he's not too busy curating the N.Y.C. Winter Jazzfest, running his Search & Restore music database, or lending his sax chops to Vampire Weekend and Sleigh Bells. It makes sense, then, that his work with Landlady is as diverse and sometimes scattered as his résumé. There is a lot of ambition stuffed into his quirky songs, from stunted, skittering rhythms and cleverly untidy riffs to punchy, harmonic backing vocals with weird R&B flavoring. It's the kind of sound that gets brewed in the heavily cross-pollinated clubs and apartments of modern-day Brooklyn, and Landlady share more than a little kinship with neighborhood forebears like Dirty Projectors and TV on the Radio, bearing some of the adroit eccentricity of the former and the art-house soul of the latter. But when all worlds collide on a song like "The Globe," the mixture works quite well, with memorable melodies and a sort of cosmic warmth enveloping its complex structure. Another standout is opening track "Above My Ground," an oddly comforting rumination about loss delivered in Schatz's kooky vocal style, which can be as charming as it is grating. Less effective frisky meanderings like "Under the Yard" and "Maria" are pleasing enough, but rely a bit too much on whimsy and less on substance. As a whole, Upright Behavior is a lot to digest, and whether or not listeners will find enough incentive to spend time cracking Landlady's code depends purely on their appetite for this type of challenging indie rock.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger