Beach House’s Teen Dream was a pleasant surprise and is an all around ethereal album. On track one, harmonies coalesce with guitar and soft use of the hi-hat to begin the album. “Zebra” builds up as the bass drum comes in softly, and lyrics begin to form. The harmonies fade into the background, as the instruments used so delicately at first start to be utilized for harder sound and finer details can be noticed. The same guitar melody stays throughout the song, with an underlying bass ride.

Track two, “Silver Soul,” begins with more melancholy harmonies, and a simple tambourine makes an appearance as vocalist Victoria Legrand hits the high notes.

“Norway” comes next and is even more pleasant than the first two tracks, with sweet “ah, ah, ah’s” complimenting the dominant vocals. Guitars murmur and percussion whispers back, making you wish the song would never end.

However, it does, as all songs must, and “Walk in the Park” commences, introducing the use of a drum machine that could only be made to work as well as it does by a band like Beach House. One’s ears capture the importance of the chorus upon first listen, but it’s not until you listen to the song through a couple times that it really begins to impact you. “In a matter of time, it would slip from my mind / In and out of my life, you would slip from my mind” unites listeners whether they realize it or not, the thoughts of all hearing the words simultaneously traveling to a common place for different reasons. It’s a song that’s hard not to start over right away once it ends.

Keyboards compete in “Used to Be,” making the off-beat of this one the most interesting. As the song progresses, the melody grows more and more beautiful, providing instant happiness upon listening.

Guitars match synthesizers and everything about “Lover of Mine” seems constant, making one of the most peaceful tracks on the album.

Elements of previous songs on the album reappear on “Better Times” at first, making it sound like the song’s already been heard. However, a unique guitar riff finally kicks in and allows Beach House to enter a new plane of existence. Climaxing rhythms take away the relaxation of the song for just a moment before returning to peaceful regularity, but further surprises lie just around the corner with enthralling vocals and a fast fade.

“10 Mile Stereo” is an airy number that would be best perceived while flying on an airplane in the midst of clouds. Its dreamy synthesizers make it one of the best tracks on the album.

Delightful piano parts make up “Real Love” and the gentle vocals augment the song further, leading into the final track ten, “Take Care.” It’s no different from any other song on the album in the way that it allows your thoughts to swirl around you as you take the music in.

Teen Dream is a release that most will find hard to take off repeat. Beach House may not create the most exciting albums, necessarily, but this one is sure to clear your mind and take you to a better place when you need it.

Most important tracks to check out: Walk in the Park, 10 Mile Stereo, Zebra

It’s a strong belief of mine that Portugal. The Man is one of the most under-appreciated bands out there today. Having already released five full-length albums along with a number of EPs, the band is known for their ever-evolving sound and fast writing of quality songs. New concepts are brought to the table with every release and Portugal. The Man never fails to disappoint fans. While one can hear a single song by them for the first time and fall in love immediately, most find that it’s easier to fully appreciate them as musicians once you’ve heard all of their work.

American Ghetto is the Portugal. The Man’s most recent album, having been released digitally on March 2nd by the band without the distribution of any advanced copies for usual pre-album reviews. It doesn’t come as a surprise that it has introduced listeners to yet another new side of them, being a more electronically based record.

It’s a tornado of emotions, beginning with “The Dead Dog.” The track is unlike any other ever created by Portugal. The Man, particularly through the sole use of a drum machine, keeping a steady, more contained beat throughout. It provides a very appropriate for the feel for the song, or better yet, for the entire album.

“Break” is a 58 second transition song, being short but necessary in the evident change in mood between tracks one and three. With scattered synthesizers, unconventional beats, and unidentifiable sounds, it brings the album straight into “60 Years,” a song that concerns the oppression encountered once in a while in life.

The drum machine continues to be utilized, though a full electronic sound is not by any means achieved, nor is it meant to be. The same clever guitar riffs that Portugal. The Man has always came up with exist just as much on American Ghetto as they do on any of their other previous releases. What has changed is that they are no longer the main component of the music. The combination of previously touched upon genres makes the album so diverse and appealing.

“All My People” is a catchy number with haunting background vocals throughout the verses that are not showcased until the song’s end, joined by garbled spoken word transitions and harder, guitar oriented choruses. Even catchier is “1000 Years,” due to its choppy chord repetition and edgy vocals, with a chorus impossible to not sing along to.

The album’s mood swings continue with the more solemn “Fantastic Pace,” written in a minor key and given lyrics that taunt. With only 30 seconds to go in the song, it enters a soulful interlude. Its placement would not make sense if tackled by any other band, but Portugal. The Man is known for their flawless execution of sudden song transitions that shouldn’t make sense but do.

“The Pushers Party” maintains the funk rock fusion, with a few surprises of its own found in the midst of pockets of resonating bass, intriguing guitar patterns, and even great harmonies.

American Ghetto moves right along and continues with yet another soulful track, “Do What We Do.” It’s truly mesmerizing with a perfect combination of percussion, bass, and vocals.

“Just A Fool” is the most melancholy track on the album, but the mood gradually lightens with “Some Men” and becomes completely uplifting with the last song, “When The War Ends.”

“When The War Ends” is the most pop influenced song the band has created, even if it was not intended to be. Though it’s the most upbeat on the album, incidentally, it deals with some of the most painful experiences members of the band have dealt with in their lives.

American Ghetto is as fascinating an album as it is mainly because of the double meanings that can be found in nearly every song that take some time to decipher. While John Gourley wrote the songs based on personal experiences and his childhood in Alaska, each song also talks about the state of the world today and how most people have chosen to ignore all that has gone downhill over the years.

Those who are already fans of Portugal. The Man will most likely appreciate the album more than those who are new to the music, but it is certainly a release that deserves to be heard by all.

Most important tracks to check out: 1000 Years, The Pushers Party, 60 Years