Sound: The fine point where the lilting acoustics of Sigur Ros, the gospel-soul lore of John Lee Hooker, and the psychedelic rock of Jefferson Airplane come together is where you will find Portugal The Man's music situated. The band's third full-length album, Censored Colors is music for storybooks which tell the tale about the evolution of acoustic rock and swamp blues spirituals emerging into avant-tinged atmospheric mists with rings of psychedelic rock hues. It is music that shows history in it's climaxes and spears cradled in contemporary swaddles making the music seem freshly made. Produced by Phil Peterson and Kirk Huffman, two-thirds of the Seattle trio Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, Censored Colors ranges from mellow tunage and soothing harmonies to twisted imbroglios that glide at hydroplane speeds. The band covers a wide range of music that goes beyond the usual pop-planed variety.
The tender textures in the acoustic guitar and vocals of frontman John Baldwin Gourley in the song And I have a bond with the contemplative versing of Sigur Ros, and the light reggae grooves of bassist Zachary Scott Carothers and drummer Jason Sechrist in the tune Salt are softly pumped by the fluid keyboard rolls of Ryan Neighbors. The neo-soul aura of Created is soaked in pools of swamp blues spiritual composites and the sultry voicing of guest singer Zoe Manville, from the band Schoolboy Error, gives the melody it's gorgeous texturing. Other hot-spots on the album include the jangly beating and country-folk keys of Out And In, And In And Out, the caressing horns and slow funk grooves of New Orleans which expand into avant-pop swirls of twisted chords and sonic imbroglios creating melodic chaos, and then there is the meditative gospel hues of Colors which bears a resemblance to Bob Dylan's "Knocking On Heaven's Door". The songs on Censored Colors are not blanketed in the same tones and textures, but the band extracts multiple influences and elements outside of mainstream torches. This means that people will react differently to each song, but the band can be assured that each song will be immediately liked by somebody out there. It is that kind of album. // 8
Lyrics: The lyrics are personal reflections about an individual's life and observations about the world, and the lyrics display an intrinsic connection that individuals have with the world like in 1989. Gourley tells in the song, I was born in nineteen eighty-nine / And it'll be over soon / No moon children or peoples sun / Or ringing in my ears / When I felt that awful news / But we found that we were always lost And we will never find our way / We felt that we would always find our way / If our minds ever come around. The song Created also carries this trademark theme with verses that tell how the individual affects the world, I don't know how we were created / But I know we all die / Go pick up all your tools and build a roof / I'll pick up all mine and build one too / I just do as I do / That's all I can do / Listen to the cars just passing through / Help out all those friends that helped you too / You just do as you do / That's all you can do. // 8
Overall Impression: Portugal The Man's latest release Censored Colors follows the band's sophomore album, Church Mouth and their debut disc, Waiters: You Vulture! Formed in 2005, Portugal The Man have become astute as making songs that are individual specimens of peoples lives, and collectively, they act as a prototype of small segments of society. The weeping violins and soft-pop arches of 1989 share a connection with Air, while the saloon pitched piano keys and theatrical chorus-line kicks of Lay Me Back Down have a bond with San Diego's Nurses. The band's songs go all over the place including the nostalgic feel of the psychedelic rock in Hard Times, and yet, the music is typical for Portugal The Man who wants to portray a collective picture in their music. The band does add little odd embellishments into the mix like the Spanish-textured horns sliding along Intermission and the toy-like piano keys underscoring the gospel-tinged mists of All Mine, which are totally unconventional when placed in rock or pop music, but when Portugal The Man does it, these oddball trinkets complement the melodies nicely and make the magnetism in their songs even stronger. There is sure to be something on Censored Colors that each person likes and strongly connects with, it's just a matter of finding which numbers do that for you. // 8
- Susan Frances aka sweetpeasuzie (c) 2008