Portugal. The Man's latest album, Woodstock, is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it's a perfect remedy for your EDM-infused indie dance-pop needs, a far departure from their usual alt-indie rock style, but the same tune is a huge cry of "sell-out" to a lot of fans. It's not a bad thing by any means, for the outside fan. Danger Mouse's second tenure as producer of the album with the band makes for a fantastic album for dancefloor tunes with an indie sound to it.
Album opener “Number One” actually takes samples from Ritchie Havens' performance of “Freedom” from the titular Woodstock concert, and then turns it into a hip-hop and blues inspired song, building on the spiritual undertones of Havens' song to deliver its message about heartache. While this brilliant mashup starts off the album really well, the next song is fairly forgettable, a dance anthem trying to preach about teenage youth.
Despite this loss in momentum, it's still a good segue into the next two songs, which are two of the best in the album and some of the best in the entire Portugal. The Man catalogue.
“Live in the Moment”, a song FIFA 18 players will recognise well, is brilliant and shows a lot more groove and makes great use of the musical style they went for this album to deliver a song about adolescence and growing up. And then there's “Feel It Still”, the breakout song of this album, easily their most mainstream success to date, breaking into the top of multiple charts thus becoming one of their most recognisable songs and one of the most popular songs of 2017 in general, winning a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance earlier this year. And it's hard to not enjoy that song, with Gourley's pitchy vocals going “Ooh woo, I'm a rebel just for kicks, now/I been feeling it since 1966, now” giving the catchiest hook in the entire album that shows well how the band hit a stride with their new dance-infused style.
“Rich Friends” and “Keep On” are a lot closer to their standard more rock-esque sound, with strong riffs carrying on from the previous dancefloor bash. “So Young” is heavily rhythmic, accentuated by the great vocals of Zoe Manville. “Mr. Lonely” is a heartbreaking song about '77 New York and possibly the strongest overall lyrically in the album. “Tidal Wave” is a lot more subdued compared to the other dance tracks, but still groovy and enjoyable. The final track, “Noise Pollution” is the result of their hip-hop inspiration from working with Beastie Boys' founder Mike D, featuring vocals from Mary Elizabeth Winstead as well, and a great closer to the album and its messages.
Overall, it's enjoyable, but fans of their last albums won't find it as enjoyable as the bands goes in a new direction musically. It's a respectable effort, but perhaps a little lost on those who came to enjoy indie rock and got some dance pop.
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