Unknown Mortal Orchestra Keep Heartache Danceable on New Single “First World Problem”

It's the first new recording from the group since last year's Multi-Love.

Ruban Nielson isn’t the first person to use pulsing disco lights to help him illuminate messy emotional problems. But as he showed on last year’s Multi-Love, he has a certain knack for sustaining an unarticulated sense of possibility as he guides Unknown Mortal Orchestra through treacherous terrain. In Nielson’s hands, discovering that both you and your wife are in love with another woman while still being deeply devoted to one another is most certainly terrifying, but it’s not a problem with no solution—even if that solution remains unclear. Such hope leads (eventually) to a buoyancy of spirit, and that buoyancy is what propelled Multi-Love over and above the maudlin trap its genesis set for it. In a live setting, those songs take on an even bigger, brighter energy. With that much breathing room, singing about having your heart trashed like a hotel room never sounded so life giving.

UMO recorded the new single “First World Problem” between Multi-Love tours, and it shows. The song begins with a fanfare of horns and clattering percussion that briefly touch down at Fela’s Shrine before the bassline morse-codes us away. “She’s got it all, and yet / She’s betting all she has on a first-world problem,” Nielson sings over twitching guitars. “You’ve got to understand / That I could be your man / Or a first-world problem.”

On paper, things don’t look good, and the growling synth that overlays Nielson’s vocals isn’t arguing otherwise. Even when the horns reassert themselves three minutes in, they’ve lost their cheer and instead sound like they’re hailing the arrival of a magistrate. That shuffling beat hasn’t stopped shuffling, but its meaning has been jerked along with it; what felt at the opening like an invitation from the sunsplash instead feels nervous and insistent. It’s the pressure to keep dancing despite the surroundings. “I know I was better as a loser,” Nielson sings. “I may be lost, but I’m a lost man in love with you.”

In addition to releasing “First World Problem” on Annie Mac’s BBC1 Radio Show today, UMO also announced that they’ll be stopping by Conan on June 7 to play their cover of The Grateful Dead‘s “Shakedown Street,” from the recently released Day of the Dead compilation. Take a listen to “First World Problem” and check out UMO’s lengthy tour schedule below.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra tour dates

25 – Calgary, AB @ Commonwealth w/ Whitney
27 – George, WA @ Sasquatch Festival
29 – Boston, MA @ Boston Calling
18 – Aarhus, Denmark @ Northside Festival
19 – Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands @ Best Kept Secret
20 – Paris, France @ Trabendo w/ Alex Cameron
21 – Cambridge, United Kingdom @ Junction w/ Alex Cameron
22 – Liverpool, United Kingdom @ East Village Arts Club w/ Alex Cameron
22-26 – Somerset, United Kingdom @ Glastonbury Festival
25 – Madrid, Spain @ Madrid Music City at Matadero Madrid
26 – Padua, Italy @ Parco Della Musica
28 – Istanbul, Turkey @ KüçükÇiftlik Park (supporting CHIC)
29 – Zurich, Switzerland @ Mascotte
1 – Vilanova l La Geltru, Spain @ Vida Festival
2 – Marmande, France @ Garorock Festival
3 – Werchter, Belgium @ Rock Werchter
15 – Quebec City, QC @ Festival D’Été De Québec
17 – Louisville, KY @ Forecastle Festival
18 – Bloomington, IN @ Bluebird Nightclub
19 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
20 – Pontiac, MI @ Crofoot Ballroom
22 – Oro-Medonte, Canada @ WayHome Music & Arts Festival
23 – Ottawa, ON @ Ritual Nightclub
24 – Burlington, VT @ Signal Kitchen
25 – Portland, ME @ Port City Music Hall
28 – Providence, RI @ Fete Ballroom
30 – New York, NY @ Central Park Summerstage
12-13 – Eau Claire, WI @ Eaux Claires Festival
17 – Paredes De Coura, Portugal @ Paredes de Coura
18-21 – Wales, United Kingdom @ Green Man Festival
19-21 – Hamburg, Germany @ Dockville
28 – Portland, OR @ MusicFest NW (Project Pabst)
30 – Petaluma, CA @ Lagunitas Brewing Company
1 – Santa Monica, CA @ Santa Monica Pier
2 – Berkeley, CA @ Greek Theatre – UC Berkeley w/ Tame Impala
3 – Berkeley, CA @ The Greek Theatre – UC Berkeley w/ Tame Impala


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