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


Best of 2009

January 1, 2010

My list ended up changing tremendously by the last day of the year, but here it is!

Best Albums

1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
2. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
3. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic
4. Portugal. The Man – The Satanic Satanist
5. Telefon Tel Aviv – Immolate Yourself
6. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
7. The Antlers – Hospice
8. Jónsi & Alex – Rice Boy Sleeps
9. mewithoutYou – It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright
10. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
11. Mew – No More Stories Are Told Today I’m Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories the World is Grey I’m Tired Let’s Wash Away
12. Umphrey’s McGee – Mantis
13. Mumford & Songs – Sigh No More
14. Atlas Sound – Logos
15. Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
16. Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs
17. Dan Deacon – Bromst
18. Rx Bandits – Mandala
19. Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything To Nothing
20. M. Ward – Hold Time
21. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – Outer South
22. Dredg – The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion
23. Passion Pit – Manners
24. Taken By Trees – East Of Eden
25. Monsters of Folk – Self-Titled
26. Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
27. The XX – XX
28. Boys Noize – Power
29. Cursive – Mama, I’m Swollen
30. Fanfarlo – Reservoir
31. Rodrigo y Gabriela – 11:11
32. Owen – New Leaves
33. Muse – The Resistance
34. Sonic Youth – The Eternal
35. Kevin Devine – Brother’s Blood
36. Person L – The Positives
37. St. Vincent – Actor
38. Volcano Choir – Unmap
39. Bowerbirds – Upper Air
40. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
41. Brand New – Daisy
42. The Mercury Program – Chez Viking
43. Noah and the Whale – The First Days of Spring
44. Regina Spektor – Far
45. Devendra Banhart – What Will We Be
46. Girls – Album
47. WHY? – Eskimo Snow
48. The Appleseed Cast – Sagarmatha
49. The Mountain Goats – The Life of the World to Come
50. Gomez – A New Tide

Best EPs

1. Animal Collective – Fall Be Kind [EP]
2. Andrew Bird – iTunes Session – EP
3. Good Old War/Cast Spells – Split EP
4. Bon Iver – Blood Bank EP
5. Modest Mouse – No One’s First, and You’re Next

Best Soundtracks

1. Where the Wild Things Are
2. Away We Go
3. (500) Days of Summer
4. New Moon
5. Taking Woodstock

Best Album Artwork

1. Portugal. The Man – The Satanic Satanist
2. The Mars Volta – Octahedron
3. Muse – The Resistance
4. Dan Deacon – Bromst
5. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

Overall, it was a fantastic year for music. Hardly any let downs among the releases that I paid attention to. 2010’s looking pretty good, too.

Do You

September 21, 2009

The least remarkable song on The Satanic Satanist, in my opinion, but an incredible video done by Ryan Rothermel.