My Top 20 Songs of 2011 #9: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – ‘How Can U Luv Me’

The first time I heard Unknown Mortal Orchestra was on a session for BBC 6 Music. I thought it sounded good, but I don’t remember feeling blown away. Then a couple of hours later I found myself tapping out a rhythm and trying to hum in falsetto (a bit embarrassing, since I was sat at my desk at the time). It took a minute or two to work out what I was tap-humming at my desk, but once I worked it out, I found myself listening to it on repeat.

The more I listened to it, the more I loved it. On first listen the production sounds almost thin, but then you realise that it’s in this space that the scruffy pysch-funk of the song can breathe. It says a lot that this is the same sort of trick that Prince used to pull in the Purple Rain era (the title gives an indication of the debt paid to the wee purple one). The rhythm section is outstanding, understatedly pounding out a breakbeat that propels the song along. Then there’s the joyous, yet unearthly falsetto vocal, which disguises the heartbreak and loneliness in the lyrics.

Above all of this, there is something gloriously life-affirming in hearing a song that comes from nowhere, gets under your skin and slowly wins you over.

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