As one of the contemporary indie genre’s most beloved names, Unknown Mortal Orchestra (A.K.A. Ruban Nielson) has had larger shoes to fill with each record. Since his 2011 debut, Nielson has only refined and improved upon his signature sound, managing to turn it on its head each time without ever compromising the central aesthetic that only he can create. It should then come as no surprise that UMO’s latest project, V, is Nielson’s best album to date.
If you were waiting for an utter departure from UMO’s characteristic sound, this is not the album for you (the SB collections would be the place to start). However, V stands as a clear elevation of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s sound, delivering something completely distinct from the rock-driven Sex & Food (2018), the woozy Multi-Love (2015), or anything else in UMO’s outstanding catalogue. V delivers everything we know, love, and expect, including jazzy, classically-inspired arrangements, massive musical phrases that meander around each song’s core, and a one-of-a-kind aesthetic dripping in a lo-fi, yet meticulously manicured tone.
As a whole, V delivers an extremely cohesive landscape to steadily groove to. From the opening track “The Garden,” with its soaring guitar solo and irresistible beat, to “The Widow” and its evocative instrumental odyssey, to “I Killed Captain Cook” with its insane finger style guitar and classic gravelly vocals. Each song demonstrates a slightly new shade of Nielson’s inspiration and perspective, shedding light on one of indie music’s more enigmatic artists.
V is almost the perfect sequel—offering more of what we love, only bigger and better. So why almost perfect? Because we’ve heard the first single from this album, “Weekend Run” in June 2021, almost two years ago. UMO released six (excellent) singles in total for this album, which is shocking considering the so-called double LP itself only has 14 songs.
Artists and their labels must truly consider whether the extra streaming profits are worth an album arriving half-stale on release, as this one did for me. Despite these annoying capitalist practices, Unknown Mortal Orchestra has once again proven the ever-expanding depth of his musical ability, crafting an hour of music with V that truly must be heard to be believed.