Pre-Screening: Portugal. The Man

Portugal. The Man
Censored Colors
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.

Created - Portugal The Man


Sorry For the Long Delay

Hey to everyone reading.  We're still here, just a lot going on in our lives as of late, so we'll leave it at that to explain the lack of posts.  Not to worry though, we (Heath and I) are returning by the end of this week with some exclusive reviews in our ongoing "Pre-Screening" segment.  Heath will be telling you all about Skeletal Lamping by of Montreal, and I'll be diving into Censored Colors by Portugal. The Man.  I know, all very exciting stuff.  

The "Pre-Screening" feature will probably be continuing on a once a week basis, along with my "Buzz" and Heath's "Track of the Week".  The special project noted at the beginning of the month should also be starting up in the next week or so.  Heath and I plan on talking about our favorite 25 albums, respectively, going from the bottom of the list, up to the top.  Stay tuned, as it's a 50-day project.  Also, a little further down the road, we'll be dedicating all of October 10th to the one year anniversary of the release of In Rainbows by Radiohead.  If you're not a fan, sorry to hear, but that's still all that's going to be happening here on that date.


Track of the week: Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees

I know what you're thinking: "God, Heath, that song is more than a decade old."

Yes, I know. And that's exactly why it's my track of the week for this week.

"Fake Plastic" was by far the best song on Radiohead's 1995 effort, The Bends. The album may not stand out as the band's best after Thom & Co. have given us some masterpieces (OK Computer, Kid A, In Rainbows), but this song has endured.

It's been featured prominently on the band's current North American tour, getting the fireworks treatment at Lollapalooza and a night at All Points West this weekend. Watch the videos. Be blown away. It's clearly still a crowd favorite, a masterpiece hidden in a flawed album, if flawed only when compared to the band's other work.

It's a soft song at first, delicate and careful with acoustic strumming and Thom Yorke's soothing crooning about a woman living a life she doesn't want, feeling fake. And "it wears her out."

Then the song builds and builds until it finally explodes with full-force guitars as Thom realizes he loves the girl who "looks like the real thing, she tastes like the real thing. My fake plastic love." And you can't help but feel a bit of heartache when the song and Thom go soft again at the end and he pleads: "If I could be who you wanted, If I could be who you wanted, all the time."

Still, after all this time, this song gives me the chills.

Fake Plastic Trees - Radiohead


Better late than never, they always say.

Fleet Foxes have been one of the most-blogged/talked-about bands of the year. Their debut, self-titled LP that dropped in June was highly anticipated and much hyped. I didn't jump on the bandwagon immediately. I tried to get into them but just couldn't wrap my mind around the harmony-laden indie folk group.

But I gave them another shot this week. And I have a new obsession.

Fleet Foxes is a marvelous record, one of the best of the year so far, with beautiful harmonies complimenting strong melodies on tracks part of what seems to be a thriving new genre: indie folk. (See: Grizzly Bear, My Morning Jacket, Panda Bear, Okkervil River.)

I'm not going to write a huge review for the album since it's been out for more than two months already. But I urge you to check this band out. Even if you listened before and for whatever reason didn't like them, give them another shot. I did. And I can't believe I was missing out on this.

Ragged Wood - Fleet Foxes

Oliver James - Fleet Foxes


Pre-Screening: Okkervil River

Okkervil River
The Stand Ins
JagJaguwar Records
Out: September 9, 2008

By definition, a stand in is a substitute, but this album, rather acts as a compliment. For those who have heard the band's 2007 release, The Stage Names, this was designed as a continuation of the themes of that album. For the most part, they succeed in establishing continuity, but at the same time, their penchant for making dramatically different music from track to track can get in the way- which is not a bad thing for those who've listened before, but for newcomers to the band, it could be tough to see the relationship on the first few go-arounds. Still, on to the album...

Opening up the album, you can't help but feel you're listening to a different band. "The Stand Ins, One" is an instrumental track (the first of three on here), a new element for Okkervil, and it sets a tone that flirts with Radiohead and Neutral Milk Hotel at times, but in the most subtle ways of course. Moving along, the already-released first single, "Lost Coastlines" brings you right back to what you left on The Stage Names. Mixing a vibe of 'Unless It's Kicks" (The Stage Names) and "Westfall" (Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See), this poppy hit makes you want to move, and of course, sing along. For five and a half minutes, this one displays some catchy pop sensibilities, and also throws in some plagirism with a foray into "Heart's On Fire" by John Cafferty, from the Rocky IV soundtrack.

The middle portion of the albums gives us the usual mix of high and low on any Okkervil album. "Singer Songwriter" treads the line, while the already-heard "Starry Stairs" grinds the album to a screeching halt. I personally don't like its inclusion, since many fans have the track from Itunes [ see (Shannon Wilsey on the) Starry Stairs], but that's just my own conviction. "Blue Tulips" is a direct substitute for "A Girl in Port" (TSN)- a nice, lengthy ballad- then the section of the album is brought to a close with the second instrumental.

The album's final five tracks seem to close the book on the emotions from the two records. Stand outs (no pun intended) here include "Pop Lie" and "Calling and Not Calling My Ex". Frontman Will Sheff frequently criticizes pop, and bands who purposefully write radio hits, and entertainingly enough, "Pop Lie" could be seen as just that- if it weren't for the superior orchestration and design of Okkervil River that is.

So what are my thoughts on this one? Since I've provided a good amount of mixed messages throughout the review, as always.

Okkervil River does on this album what they do best- make good indie rock, and provide enough brass to make it sound a little more intelligent. They succeeded in making two good albums in as many years, but didn't need to try to push the incorporation of the two, when I could just as easily have seen the two as seperate entities. Plus, like I said, the inclusion of "Starry Stairs" annoyed me, but I can see why it would happen, since the albums are incorporated. My question to the band: Where's "Love to a Monster"? One of my favorite Okkervil River tracks, this one was released as an emusic-only bonus, and seems to fit in with the mood they're attempting to establish on both records. I suggest this one if you're already a listener. If not, I'd go check out their best work- 2005's Black Sheep Boy, before checking out this two-release effort. Also an ideal band to listen to if you're feeling nostalgic for NMH, whose similarities are stark and continual.

Grade: 7.5/10. This could change with time, but for right now, I think it's a fair evaluation.

Lost Coastlines - Okkervil River

If the Imeem track isn't working, chances are "Lost Coastlines" will be up soon on their Last.FM.

*Note: Other commentary, outside of reviews will be seen as separate entries from now on. So, that means stay tuned during the week for features such as my "Buzz" addition and Heath's "Track of the Week", among others.



No, we haven't forgotten the website. As is the case with many small business ventures though, things happen that are not necessarily in the plan, and it's up to us to work with those happenings to find success anyway.

We're undergoing a format change- to be completed by the end of the month. To any that were following the old schedule, it's no longer valid, but still feel free to check up on us during the week, because people will still be posting. Right now, we're thinking up some ways to change the blog, to make it more suitable to a larger audience. I've already got one project in mind that I think people will enjoy, but I'd also like some feedback, if possible.

What do you like/not like about this space? It can be anything no matter how large or small. I'll take it into consideration while re-evaluating what we do here and how we do it, in the coming weeks.

Thanks, and keep reading!

-John, Editor in Chief


New of Montreal - "Id Engager"

The ever-so-happy psychedelic pop rockers are at it again. Last year's effort by of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, was one of the best records of the year. The bass line of "Gronlandic Edit" and the craziness of "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse" were looped on my playlist for days.

I was surprised to hear of Montreal had another record set for 2008. As the details started pouring in -- Kevin was going to use his alter ego more often, the album would be comprised of tons of tiny different bits, transitioning into each other -- I got excited. Then came the weird album art and, finally, last night came the Skeletal Lamping's first single, "Id Engager."

It's indie pop rock at its finest. Complete with choruses of "ooh"s and "ahh"s. There's some synths, a killer bass line again and, of course, some weird lyrics. ("Ninjas! Prove it! Right?" What?)

Skeletal Lamping
should be awesome. It's due out Oct. 7 on Polyvinyl.

Stereogum's got the "Id Engager" mp3 here.