[Music Review] Portugal. The Man “The Satanic Satanist”

portugal.theman satanicsatanistOverview:

I go through these phases where I discover wonderful bands at a breakneck pace, and then I sort of toil around for a bit waiting to see which of the bands will self-destruct, which will find mainstream success, or which ones will put out great music for years to come. Lucky for me I’m in one of my discovery phases right now, and one of the new bands I’ve uncovered for my listening pleasure is Portugal. The Man.

Portugal. The Man definitely and unquestionably have an interesting band name. The name has a background that involves David Bowie and a planned book by one of the band’s members, and it’s obviously an attention grabbing name. I’m actually still a little puzzled as to what it actually means.

Review:

“The Satanic Satanist” was released on July 21st, and the initial buzz I read about the album was generally positive, so I felt inclined to give it a listen. I must say, that I was overly pleasantly surprised and pleased with what I heard over my speakers. It combines various genres, and does so effectively.

What I heard was a unique sounding band, one that had an indie feel, but also had the bite of a band ready to break out. I knew they were on the Lollapalooza line-up (unfortunately I’m only going Saturday, when they won’t be playing, so I won’t be able to see them live just yet), but what struck me most was the overall uniqueness to the band’s sound. They have a folk/indie/alternative vibe, but they have some blues influences as well. As this band melds those sounds together, magic is made on every single track that resides on this album.

“The Satanic Satanist” boasts extremely strong lyrical content, and lead singer/guitarist John Gourley has a distinct falsetto voice that speaks a great deal from the first person perspective, giving the songs a personal feel. There is something to be said about songs that aren’t afraid for the listen to get close, to get attached, to feel the words as they blend with the music that accompanies them. They also have some remarkable imagery embedded within them, which Gourley’s high pitched vocals accentuate greatly. I know I’m probably one of the few people who is still in love with the New Radicals (of 1990s one-hit wonder fame), but this band reminds me a great deal of where I expected that band to go. All while sounding a little bit like Wilco. Two of the my favorite bands is pretty lofty company to be compared to.

The band involves a lot, and on each track, there’s a lot going on. They aren’t your typical four-piece band with each member sticking within their specific area of expertise. Gourley doesn’t stick to just the vocals and guitar he mans the organ and machines as well, each of those adding another element to already strong songs. They implement drum machines and synthesizers to “anchor” their songs, and each song on “The Satanic Satanist” does indeed feel anchored. They’re concise, tight, and straight to the point. The album kicks off with “People Say,” the lead single and a very strong song to be sure. It sounds just a tad like a modern version of The Beatles. Holy shit, did I just compare this young band to The Beatles?

So, the album continues, and it continues to change, to develop, and each song is distinctly different but still VERY strong. “Lovers in Love” has a quick rhythm, and a looping techno feel to it that is almost dizzying to listen to it paired with the vocals shrieking along with it. It’s fantastic. Each song sounds like a funk/folk/soul/blues/indie/alternative/bacon fusion, and it’s amazing how many genres they seem to cover within each short song.

“Guns and Dogs” is a particularly diverse song, one that covers a lot of ground in a short period of time. “Everyone is Golden” feels incredibly introspective, as it builds and builds beautifully toward the catchy chorus, then transfers seamlessly into a new verse. The album ends with “Mornings,” you guessed it, yet ANOTHER strong song. It’s another of the slow start/gradually build to epic proportions songs, but it seems to stay true to its melancholy sound a bit more than most other songs on the album. Where the other songs seem to come out of the sadness and into the happiness, this one seems to stay in the sadness a bit longer, actually for the bulk of the song. It’s a great way to end the album.

Track List:
1.”People Say” (+)
2.”Work All Day” (+)
3.”Lovers in Love” (+)
4.”The Sun” (-)
5.”The Home” (-)
6.”The Woods” (-)
7.”Guns & Dogs” (+)
8.”Do You” (+)
9.”Everyone Is Golden” (++)
10.”Let You Down” (+)
11.”Mornings” (+)

Final Words:

I can’t believe how many bands I love that I can compare these guys to, but even those comparisons aren’t fair. This band is almost too unique to be compared to anyone, and there are few bands who can put out an album with 11 straight through solid tracks on it. I recommend this band, and specifically this album to anyone who likes music. I would be very surprised if you couldn’t find something you like about this album, it’s infinitely listenable, and I anticipate listening the hell out of this album for years to come.

Pros:

  • Unique, yet comparable to GREAT bands
  • Introspective and Artistic

Cons:

  • A sub-par middle section of the album really takes away momentum

Score: 7.8/10 (Very Good)

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