Released June 4, 2013
For a band, the sign that you’re finally getting somewhere is when a well-known producer asks to work with your next album. When asked by Danger Mouse, a.k.a. Brian Joseph Burton – multi-Grammy winner, producer, musician, and collaborator – the 5-piece, Portland-based band, Portugal. The Man, was more than willing to scrap two weeks of recording and eight out of ten already-finished tracks to “start fresh”. The result? A smooth, upbeat indie-rock-anthem-album that irons out the kinks (and unfortunately, some of the quirks) that the two consistent members, John Gourley and Zach Carothers, have been developing since 2006. The work certainly sounds good: the vocals are cleaner than ever, and the band uses consistent instrumental choices, and one track flows flawlessly to the next. In a sense, they’ve become more streamlined and consistent… but don’t expect any surprises. It’s all straight-up-indie rock.
On their website, Facebook, and pretty much everywhere else, Portugal. The Man can’t stop talking about their experience working with the producer. In other places, the album is touted as their most “mainstream yet”, and when you’re indie, that can be either encouraging or damning. Tracks such as Holy Roller [Hallelujah] and Evil Friends stick out only in that they’re the most energetic of the group, whereas softer ballads like Plastic Soldiers and Waves excel in being, well, soft and ballad-y. Together they all sound good, but that’s about it. Fans of the band will find familiar thematic material throughout, songs about finding ones place amongst friends and enemies and how everybody’s doing the same, too. Those new to the band can either pick up something earlier of theirs or, as a new album has been released practically every year since their inception, wait until next year. There’s things to like about Evil Friends, but there’s not much there to love.
Recommended tracks: Evil Friends, Holy Roller [Hallelujah], Purple Yellow Red and Blue
Sounds like: Broken Bells, Maps & Atlases, Local Natives, Cold War Kids, Minus the Bear