Portugal. The Man’s Latest… Through the Ears of a First-Time Listener
Over four years have passed since 2013’s Evil Friends, but Alaskan rockers Portugal. The Man are finally back with Woodstock. The wait was certainly not without reason though, nor was it the band simply sitting on their laurels. Before I delve into my thoughts on Woodstock, I want to be wholly honest with you, the reader: I have heard the name, but I never listened to Portugal. The Man until hearing the lead single from Woodstock, and I have still yet to dive into their back catalog, even as I type up this review. Now that that’s off my chest, let’s get into my assessment.
I’ll start by saying that the band was wise in picking the singles they released in anticipation of Woodstock, as “Number One,” “Feel It Still,” and “Noise Pollution” are all great cuts. Whether it’s the swampy groove and soulful vocals of the album opener (a seamless sampling of the late Richie Havens), the horns and retro vibes on the bass-y number one hit “Feel It Still,” or the noisy industrial rocker of a closer, all three tunes were able to build hype for the disc, yet they did so in very different ways. On top of that, they sound fantastic in the context of the full record.
Another aspect of Woodstock that immediately stands out is the undeniable hip-hop influence throughout the entire album. There is no doubt in my mind that this was intentional, as Portugal. The Man’s eighth studio effort boasts a couple of big names in the rap world shouldering some of the production duties, namely Mike D of the Beastie Boys and Danger Mouse, in addition to a few other guest contributors. Be those prominent, such as the guest feature from Fatlip of alternative hip-hop juggernaut The Pharcyde on “Mr. Lonely,” or subtle, like A$AP Rocky providing backing vocals on the sensual ballad “So Young,” the record oozes of hip-hop.
The last consistent characteristic on Woodstock is its heavy use of electronics. Instead of taking this too far though, Portugal. The Man seems to perfectly complement the rest of their instrumentation. There are a few moments that feel a bit like filler, but those brief moments are superseded by highlights such as the three singles, the reggae-esque banger “Mr. Lonely,” and the ripping yet grooving “Easy Tiger.” Woodstock starts and ends with a bang, and feels like a solid release as a whole.
After listening and digesting the latest from Portugal. The Man, I can say that I’ve very much enjoyed this release. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether my lack of prior exposure to the band affects my ability to give their eighth full-length a proper assessment, but regardless, you’ve come this far in reading, so you must have been intrigued one way or another, and for that I applaud you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe it’s time for me to catch up on what I’ve been missing for the past decade or so.