Album Review Portugal The Man Evil Friends LA Music Blog Angelica Corona
Portugal. The Man’s upcoming release follows in the wake of their successful 2011 effort, In The Mountain In the Cloud, which in turn was preceded by several other equally astounding albums. The band has a consistent, almost annual record of releases, and with Danger Mouse’s hand now in the mix on their latest effort, I couldn’t imagine not giving Evil Friends a listen.
Fans got an early preview of the upcoming release with the triple-threat collaboration track “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” a mix of Danger Mouse, Portugal. The Man, and Haim. The song proves that you can’t have too much of a good thing, while the album independently proves that Portugal. The Man and Danger Mouse have continued their impeccable track record of releasing only phenomenal music.
Evil Friends is not a complete departure from Portugal. The Man’s previous releases, which is a reflection of Danger Mouse’s ability to positively influence already established and amazing artists without altering them beyond recognition. The production on the new record reflects a funkier undertone but keeps with Portugal’s jam-friendly, bright breakdowns. When a band cites Weird Al as one of their influences, you know you’re in for a treat, and as we’re introduced to the album through “Plastic Soldiers,” John Gourley’s voice is a welcomed sound and eases listeners into the record.
“Creep in a T-Shirt” brings in an Asteroid Galaxy Tour influence that pops up throughout the album. Neon-bright beats balance out the dark themes in “Evil Friends,” which introduces a reoccurring clash of religious elements — “It’s not that I’m evil, I’ve got a friend in the devil” — while “Modern Jesus” coolly croons a similar mood — “Who cares if hell awaits? / We’re having drinks at heaven’s gates” — that brings back memories from Portugal. The Man’s 2009 release,Satanic Satanist.
“Hip Hop Kids” bears the first significant resemblance to anything from In The Mountain In The Cloud with anthemic singing and the album’s rawest sound yet. The track reinforces an autonomous perspective but takes a brief vacation from synthesizers to revisit familiar sounds established in earlier albums.
“Atomic Man” offers an unattached, disconnected approach that leaves no hint of regret or wish to return to the subject of the song. “After you, I don’t know what I believe in / After you, hell will be easier” clues listeners in to the severity of the separation between the two characters.
A far cry from the lighthearted “Floating (Time Isn’t Working My Side)” and “Sleep Forever,” Evil Friends blends several conflicting religious references. Not to say that the narrator is conflicted about religion, but rather clashing with religion itself. From blatant song titles to under-toned one-liners, Portugal. The Man’s new material is a departure from previous work and an impressive lyrical progression.
“Sea of Air” features Sgt. Pepper-like bursts of energy between rhythmic harmonies and light acoustic picking. The album slows down with “Waves,” which offers a heavier use of keys and percussion to contrast bright horns and Gourley’s voice as they build and come together for an epic and monumental experience. “Holy Roller (Hallelujah)” and “Someday Believers” cement the religious focus and seamlessly flow together with striking guitar riffs and an orchestral background.
Wrapping up Evil Friends is something familiar: “Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue.” As mentioned, Portugal. The Man premiered this track early on (appropriately so), and it showcases all of the album’s strengths. The vocals, solid as always, are complemented by the familiar harmonies of Haim, and the song (and video) provide some of the dance-friendliest music released this year.
Seeing us to the end, “Smile” is an encore-friendly conclusion that truly exemplifies the darker tone of the keys used throughout the album. This final song calls back exact layers from the opening song, “Plastic Soldiers,” to commence an old-soul, piano-led chorus.
Photos: Hayley Young
If Evil Friends teaches us anything, it’s that Portugal. The Man knows what they’re doing and they do it damn well. The creative video backdrops and album art reveal that the band’s artistry is hardly limited to their sound. The members of Portugal. The Man are some of the most dedicated musicians I’ve ever seen, and both their releases and live performances are consistently superb.
Evil Friends features a lot of what we’ve already fallen in love with on past releases, but with a new, seductive twist. We’re just about halfway through 2013, and at this point, it is my favorite record of the year. It’ll be released on June 4th, so make sure to pre-order your copy before then.