Aproaching AlRbaloons/Equalvision Records
Out: September 16th
Rarely can an album name's significance be realized on the first listen. Censored Colors, however, is the exception to this.
Portugal. The Man's new record is exactly what the title implies. The album lets off a muted feel, one that feels held back by something hidden, muffled by another unseen force. This is not a bad thing though. These "censored colors" still manage to bleed through the black and white nature of the album to reveal bright and bursting landscapes of sound. The songs prove to be a bit calmer than 2007's Church Mouth, but it doesn't lose the art and essence of what the band is, and more so, how it seems to embody the sprawling Alaskan horizon where they hail from.
From the onset, you are treated to an interesting array of organized noise, subtle textures, and introspection. "Lay Me Back Down" provides the perfect mood-setter, and it carries on through to "Colors", as well as "And I"- all will soon be considered staples of the Portugal. The Man library.
As a lengthy record (15 tracks), Censored Colors even has a break of sorts, aptly titled, "Intermission" at track 7. Here, you're set up for the more unconventional sounds of the second portion of the record. Leading off with "New Orleans", you almost get the sense that you, the band, or both are walking down Bourbon Street during a funeral procession. Blaring, soulful, mourning brass power it as one of the longest tracks on the album, but also one of the best, especially from an instrumentation standpoint.
Continuing on, the remainder of the record stays on a line of self-examination which is not usually seen in Portugal. The Man's work. From track 11, "Hard Times" to the finale, "Our Way", the songs blend into one idea, separated like chapters in a book about the regrets, and wishes of a life which may or may not have turned out as desired. The best transition in this stanza exists between my pick for best song on the album- "1989" and "Our Way", which blend together in both sound and purpose- a reflective look on the world within and around the author.
My final thoughts on this one? Excellent. You couldn't ask for much more out of Portugal. The Man on this one, as the band grows naturally within itself, exploring the outer reaches of what their sound can be. Anyone would be hard pressed to find a bad song on Censored Colors, and the more you listen, the more you enjoy its thoughtful approach and artistic sound. This has "Top 10 of 2008" written all over it. For those looking for standouts, they all are, but I'd suggest the aforementioned "1989", "Lay Me Back Down" and "Colors", as the best of the bunch.
Grade: 9/10. Anyone who reads this regularly knows it's hard to get this grade out of me, so if that's not indicative of how good this record is, I'm not sure what is.