REVIEW: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Drops His 5th Album in 3 Months

If music fans ever needed confirmation about the sheer impossibility to pin down the musical sound of Omar Rodriguez Lopez, they need look no further than Umbrella Mistress.

The 5th installment in a string of 12 albums being released this year (yep…move over King Gizz, there is a new workhorse in town), Umbrella Mistress is as playful as it is dark, as retro as it is contemporary and as confusing as it is precise.

Saloeonliaze kicks things off in a swirl of psychedelic synths and vocals doused with reverb. Things travel smoothly enough, with the song breaking out into a guitar solo that sounds suspiciously like a saxophone before winding back down.

The notion of cleaning out all creative stock by releasing 12 albums in the course of 6 months inevitably opens the door for unrestrained experimentation. Whether that be the punchy organ melodies of the title track, supported by some flutes to create a tropical landscape, or the retro 50’s jive of Blood Count, there is never a point in the album where anything sounds ‘samey.’ The constant effort to push his own musical boundaries is what makes the music of Omar so enthralling, each song offering a glimpse into the workings of a genius who feels he has so much to offer but too little time.

Houses Full Of Hurt captures this creative tension, with a dark atmosphere set up by the acoustic guitars and filtered vocals, before the chorus offers some light with the addition of some Latin percussion and keys. It’s this exploration of the musical sides of light and dark that keeps me listening to Umbrella Mistress. Eastern Promises presents a cinematic take on this theme, with the Radiohead-esque melodies evoking hardship and sadness. “Lonely broken hearts to break” croons Omar, before the song breaks into a triumphant bridge led by a soaring trumpet lead – a classic end to a cowboy movie if there ever was.

There are, however, points where the album admittedly feels like it lacks direction. Through The Wire attempts to present itself as a mini-epic in two parts, but the opening free time acoustic movement feels confused and over-spontaneous. Blue Pale Queen is structured enough, evoking memories of old slacker blues such as Foxygen ; however, it ultimately feels like a group of mates jamming over the same chord progression with some harmonies thrown into the mix for good measure. Put simply, there are some boring points here that don’t feel like they received the musical treatment that they should have before being committed to record. That being said, to release over 100 songs in just six months is a huge feat, and there are bound to be some clangers amongst the pack.

What Umbrella Mistress truly achieves is showcasing the diverse musical palate of Omar and his incredible ability to produce enormous amounts of work that, for the better part, are interesting, dynamic and bold. It sounds nothing like At The Drive In, and maybe remotely like the softer side of The Mars Volta, but ties up the loose ends of Omar’s creativity, serving as a medium to communicate his own unexplored musical adventures to a fresh audience.

Umbrella Mistress might fade back into the pack of the other 12 albums that will be released this year, but when it has a spotlight on it, it deserves to be recognised for its moments of brilliance, authenticity and thematic depth.

Image: Guitar World