Portugal. The Man sample Woodstock vibes and the future on their eighth LP.
Portugal. The Man have leapt back into heavy rotation playlists with their new album, Woodstock, simultaneously sampling the past and reaching into the band's future. In ten songs that range from the pop-groove of "Feel It Still" to the dance-floor glitz of "Noise Pollution," the group from Wasilla, Alaska have captured the catchiness of the best alt-rock and sharpened its edges.
While Woodstock opens with a cover of Richie Havens' Woodstock finale, it's as if the album starts on track two, when the garbled, electronic vocal samples of "Easy Tiger" descend into the fiery, smooth rock that the band exemplifies on this record. Heavy with electronic sounds, filled out with organ and heavy bass between drum-driven verses, the song charges forward into the album's solid first half. "Live in the Moment" tackles the summer pop song with style but it's the following song that has launched Portugal. The Man back onto alt-radio and beyond.
You don't even need to understand all of the words on "Feel It Still" to appreciate the slickness of John Baldwin Gourley's falsetto over the grooving bass and horns. Long-time Portugal. The Man collaborator Zoe Manville joins the band on vocals for the epitome of the summer hit. Forget its place on the charts or its sales numbers; "Feel It Still" has dug itself in (earworm pun) for a long gig as one of this year's songs of the summer. (Apple commercials don't hurt, either.)
The band doesn't slow down yet. "Rich Friends" shines with its party atmosphere, stacking vocals in towers of energy. The pre-chorus line has an unstoppably catchy rhythm: "I could really really really use a rich rich friend like you" won't leave your head.
The last song bursts from the relative dullness following "Rich Friends" with glamour, energy, French and guests Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Manville. "I'm still feeling magnifique," sings Gourley in a final track that sounds like the definition of the word "magnifique."
In half an album, Portugal. The Man demonstrate 2017 alt-rock, perfected: bright, hook-driven songs full of electronics, horns and falsetto, and dipped in hip hop. Bookended by excellence, the rest of the album is… fine. B-side tracks 1–4 don't bore as much as they might because Side A plunges you so confidently into the sound of the album. By "Keep On," the songs flow comfortably from one to the next so that you don't always notice the beginnings and ends. Bad sign, normally, but Woodstock gets away with it by sticking to its album sound.
Its guest list helps, too, with features by Fat Lip and Son Little boosting the band's style. Woodstock offers a mix of high-energy alt-rock and lulling filler. But the energy of the best tracks wins in the end, earning repeated listens from any fan of groovy, slick music.
Portugal. The Man are touring internationally, through October, in support of Woodstock. They'll start at the Paramount in Seattle on July 20, head to Europe in September and return to the U.S. in October.