Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Chapter 2

Something happened while I was writing about Unknown Mortal Orchestra yesterday — an action and reaction that, together, confirmed some of my core beliefs about the nature of peoples’ relationship with music. As I wrote, out of nowhere, my Twitter feed swelled with posts about how Daytrotter, one of my favorite sites for music on the entire world wide interweb, had decided to start charging $2 per month for access to their outstanding library of hundreds of downloadable, in-studio recording sessions. For years, these sessions had been free, an offering that seemed almost too good to be true, given the the artist selection, frequency of new sessions posted — multiple sessions are added each day — and the exceptional user experience (not to mention the insightful write-ups and the original artist illustrations, which deserve their own wing of a museum). When you consider the natural aversion to paying for something that had previously been free, you might have expected outrage and disappointment at this announcement. Nope. This was the anti-Netflix. The response on Twitter was overwhelmingly supportive, an outpouring of appreciation for a site that has helped so many people discover and enjoy new music since 2006 (two of my favorite reactions — @captainsdead tweeting, “one less pbr a month can get you a seemingly unlimited amount of awesomeness over at @daytrotter. just signed up. you should too...” and the Counting Crows adding, “$2 per month? People, WE are stealing from THEM. If music has a future, its @daytrotter…”). As I bought my subscription, I had the same feeling of empowerment and civic responsibility that comes with supporting public radio, and as an added bonus, it gave me an opportunity to cast my vote for a future where people still want to pay for and support music, even if we’re not sure exactly what that future is going to look like. After I was done registering, just for fun, I checked to see if the band I was writing about had recorded a session in Daytrotter’s Rock Island, IL studio. Serendipity struck and, sure enough, Unknown Mortal Orchestra recorded a session on September 7 of this year. Some things are just meant to be. Click here to sign up for a Daytrotter membership and here to listen to Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s session if you’re already a member. And if you need an extra bit of convincing, preview UMO’s Daytrotter recording of “Boy Witch” below.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra — “Boy Witch

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

A short time ago, I wrote a series of posts entitled “What the Hell Just Happened Week” as a way to make sense of having seen 7 fantastic bands in the span of 5 days. I thought that was pretty crazy. I was wrong. I was oh so very wrong. 7? Try 1,000+. That’s how many bands performed at this year’s CMJ Music Marathon, which took place October 18-22. For those 5 days, more than 1,300 up-and-coming bands played showcases (sometimes putting on more than one show a day) in and around the NYC area for overstimulated throngs of music journalists, bloggers and fans, and it makes my head explode just trying to imagine being there. I’ve been to South by Southwest before (HEAR THAT?!? I’M HIP! DROPPING SXSW IN THERE LIKE IT’S NO BIG DEAL! OK, so I was there for the interactive conference), but I didn’t know much about CMJ’s Marathon until yesterday. Thankfully, my musical sherpa Bob Boilen fixed that. In this week’s episode of All Songs Considered, Bob gave a rundown of the CMJ experience with the help of music editor for The Village Voice Maura Johnston and writer and videographer for The L Magazine Sydney Brownstone. In just 49 minutes, they shared their first impressions of 12 of the participating bands, and I beg you give the episode a listen. Never has my Spotify “Chekkit” playlist (the one I use to check out new/unfamiliar bands) expanded so quickly. One of the groups that made an exceptional first impression was Unknown Mortal Orchestra, a super creative band from Portland, OR/Auckland, NZ (practically neighbors) that snags elements from all over the musical spectrum, crafting songs that range from “I must dance right this minute!” to “I need to listen to this about 27 more times to unpack all the interesting notes and changes.” The song below, called “Jello and Juggernauts,” leans more towards the second category, and I hope you’ll have a listen and grab their self-titled album on iTunes here.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra — “Jello and Juggernauts