Umphrey’s McGee : Death By Stereo

Death By Stereo’s opening “Miami Virtue” may well be the catchiest song Umphrey’s McGee has written. Laser beam synths create hooks, marking an instant high point on an album that struggles with its flow.

But don’t pity the Chicago sextet. These players raised the bar extraordinarily high with the prog-rock steamroller Mantis, which felt like the ultimate realization of their powers; it is a robust, complex, and  satisfying exploration of the myriad of influences that the band encompasses. In contrast, Death By Stereo feels like a breath of relief, an easy exhale that is satisfying, but uneven. Strong offerings like the aforementioned “Miami Virtue,” “Search 4,” and “Wellwishers,” are tempered by the likes of the oddly shaped “Domino Theory,” and the understated funk of both “Booth Love” and “Deeper.” While the latter three tracks are solid compositions, they are out of place, affecting the feng shui of Death By Stereo.

When speaking of Umphrey’s McGee, one thing is abundantly clear: these guys are fearlessly reinventing their sound with every opportunity, whether in the live setting or in the studio. Death By Stereo isn’t the band’s best, but it is surely an adventure.

Death By Stereo is out now on ATO Records.