Published On: Wed, Jun 3rd, 2015

Music Spotlight: Portugal. The Man

By: Megan Shea


And no, that wasn’t a punctuation error in the title. As someone constantly adding to an ever-growing music library I take pride in maintaining, finding an artist that I listen to in bulk is a rare feat. While I’m constantly adding new things from different artists, finding an artist and being able to download entire albums at a time that I can sit through is a category only a handful of artists fall into. One might coin it a short attention span specific to music.

I came across Portugal. The Man through a series of events that eventually led to me conceding to give them a listen. Before I give you a history lesson though, I’ll do my best at describing their sound. Lead vocals mirror the influences of a Beatles-esque crooning, while other elements of their music are anything but consistent- yet it is this inconsistency that seems to define their success. What can sometimes sound like MGMT psychedelic beats can become acoustic, and wound-down from one track to the next. Their sound can be closely aligned with Broken Bells and can bear a resemblance to Tame Impala, with airy, dreamlike chords. Electric Guest also belts similar, upbeat sound accompanied by a crystal-clear falsetto. As for two of those comparisons, they’re made with some loose logic- Broken Bells, Electric Guestand Portugal. The Man all share the same producer at one album or another.ptm4

On the surface, they may just be the most hipster-looking band you’ve ever seen, and yet, they’re completely tolerable and even more unique for it.  Consisting of lead singer John Gourley, Zach Carothers, Kyle O’Quin, and Jason Sechrist, Portugal. The Man is fairly new to the indie scene, having formed in 2004. Gourley and Carothers, hailing from Alaska, met in high school and began their first musical endeavor, The Anatomy of a Ghost, which saw brief success before its demise. What began as Gourley’s side project became worth pursuing after a few albums were released as Portugal. The Man, which remained fairly under the radar.

In 2009, The Satanic Satanist spawned several hits, setting their impending fame into motion. “People Say,” “The Sun,” and “The Woods” are all personal favorites. As an earlier endeavor and as a whole, it’s more tamed. It was a self-professed shot at the more pop side of indie, sticking to the three minute mark in most songs in attempt to fit the cookie-cutter mold for a hit. While more generic than their other work, it was an album marked with a few hidden gems.

In 2010, the album In the Mountain in the Cloud began to culminate  unprecedented success for the group, after signing a deal with Atlantic Records. Several of the album’s biggest songs were followed up by music videos shot entirely in Gourley’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska. Songs like “All Your Light (Times Like These),” “So American,” and “Sleep Forever” turned heads, including my own. “All Your Light (Times Like These)” became the band’s gateway song for me, inspiring me to dig a bit further.ptm2

Having made friends in all the right places, Portugal owes some of their sound to excellent producing. After warming up for The Black Keys (brownie points, by the way), The Black Keys‘ drummer, Patrick Carney, suggested a future collaboration for the group and the man who had produced several of The Black Keys‘ latest albums- producer Brian Burton, known as Danger Mouse. The name may not ring a (Broken) Bell, but his lengthy list of awards and projects will. Having won producer of the year five years in a row and named one of Esquire’s 75 most influential people of the 21st century, his name is one that when attached to yours can only usher in great things. He’s associated with Broken Bells, Gnarls Barkley, The Black Keys, Electric Guest, The Red Hot Chili Peppers among others. It’d be easier to say that he’s somehow connected to anything you’ve ever liked.

As you could probably have predicted, this collaboration proved incredibly fruitful- resulting in the album Evil Friends. In typical Portugal fashion, each song leaves you feeling like you’ve just found your next favorite. One of their defining characteristics to me is the ability to make each song sound so definitively different, while maintaining a flow throughout an album. They strike the balance that keeps this volatility from being overwhelming and lyrics act as a tieback, making the album feel like complete piece. Their song of the same name was featured on commercials, while songs like “Atomic Man,” “Creep in a T-Shirt,” “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” and “Modern Jesus” stood out as popular favorites. Evil Friends was no exception to the trend of eclectic album artwork, designed by Gourley, as was the case with previous albums.

So if you’re looking to add to that ever-growing library, I suggest giving this group a listen. There’s something for everyone in the versatility of their sound and Portugal. The Man is a name that won’t be going away in indie-music.


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