Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Sex & Food Album Review

Story posted April 10, 2018 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by Jenna Minnig

Confused emotions and experimental sounds are just a few elements on Sex & Food. The fourth album from Unknown Mortal Orchestra highlights the band’s best features, musically. Lyrically, the group falls short of leaving a lasting impression on listeners.

While the sonic qualities on this album are not entirely different from previous Unknown Mortal Orchestra releases, they are more developed and composed than any work that came before from the band. Multi-Love, the record that preceded Sex & Food, was lyrically focused. Ruban Nielson, the lead band member, aimed for the central topic of that album to invite people to listen to the story of his polyamorous relationship experiences at the time with his wife. While Multi-Love has compelling musical traits, the storytelling component is the focal point of the record. Sex & Food is just the opposite of that.

Rather than focusing on telling an intimate story or analyzing other-worldly topics, Nielson concentrated on the details in the sonic qualities of this album. Not just in sound quality, but in crafting something that is different from mainstream music being played today. Although he manages to incorporate the darker side of his feelings through the lyrics on several tracks, his feelings never become the center of attention. “This Doomsday” is an example of a song with a slower beat and ominous lyrics.

Something that makes Unknown Mortal Orchestra appealing is their ability to follow a somber song with a cheerful track and a completely contrasting melody. “How Many Zeros,” the song that proceeds, is immediately consumed by a catchy beat and high-pitched vocals, which is entirely different than the song before it. Qualities like this are what make the sound of this album unique and unlike anything else.

Listening to Sex & Food can give listeners a break from reality and is a large factor of why many people listen to Unknown Mortal Orchestra in the first place. Fun and pleasure are just some feelings evoked from of the record. They have their own take on the psychedelic genre, which is something that many artists are too timid to attempt. Experimenting with such a beloved genre of music can be risky, but the songs on this album succeed at being extremely listenable time and time again.

Overall, Sex & Food is Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s most easy to enjoy record to date, even if it’s not the most consistent. It is evident that they went into the writing and recording process with some significant ideas that got lost somewhere along the way. However, the shift away from dense or heavy lyrics makes it a simple listen where one can focus on the musical elements in detail. The variety of upbeat and slow songs prevent listeners from ever getting bored with one tempo or instrumental aspect.

Seeing the trends in Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s previous work, they could go anywhere with their music in the future. As they continue to push their own boundaries, listeners might question whether there will be a larger focus on lyrics or a heavier concentration on musical aspects. This uncertainty will be something fans anticipate until the next release.

Rating: 7/10



Jenna Minnig is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email at jkm5756@psu.edu.