With the frustrating and often brilliant II, these oddball psych-pop New Zealanders have sunk even deeper into the swampy digs of why-fi — as in, "Why the hell tarnish such excellent songs with such half-assed fidelity?" Even more so than their buzz-worthy 2011 debut, II is a first-class showcase for Ruban Nielson's warped pop skills: "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)" and "Faded in the Morning" are winding mazes of barbed-wire guitar fuzz and crooked tree-branch melodies; "One at a Time" pits Nielson's glass-eyed bark over rippling, Frank Zappa-styled wah-wah. Meanwhile, "So Good at Being in Trouble" ventures seamlessly into blue-eyed soul. But even these hooky highlights feel sonically smothered, as if they were recorded from inside a poorly ventilated shoebox. Why do modern indie bands like UMO purposely strive to sound shitty? Somebody needs to boot Nielson off his why-fi connection: beneath the murk is the work of a riveting craftsman.
UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA + FOXYGEN + WAMPIRE :: Brighton Music Hall, 158 Brighton Ave, Allston :: March 2 @ 8 pm :: 18+ :: $13 :: 617.779.0140 or brightonmusichall.com