Album: Censored Colors
Artist: Portugal. The Man
Label: Approaching AIRballoons/Equal Vision
Here we are. The #1 album of the year 2008, according to Animal Noises, Portugal. The Man's Censored Colors. From the first sounds of the album, a chorus of sung discordant noise, you are set up for something truly different from anything else you've heard this year. No, it may not be groundbreaking, but like I said, nothing really was this year. This is exclusively Portugal. The Man, however, in that they do have their own sound which evolves within the confines of the band's original aesthetic. Censored Colors opens you up to an array of sounds and textures, as they blend indie rock, noises and their past experimental aspects, to create a thought-provoking sonic display. As I said in my initial review of this record, this immediately hit me as one of the best of 2008, and indeed, it ended up with that distinction, and more. The colors you see and hear are, without a doubt, there, but also censored, to a degree, as the title suggests. Each track possesses the full spectrum of shades and hues, but they're continually muting each other in an entertaining struggle from song to song.
Thoughtful, artistic and long (15 songs), Censored Colors never wears on you, but instead encourages you to read deeper, and look forward to what comes next. Each year, everyone has an album or two which hooks them from the first second, grabbing their attention almost immediately as something worth listening to, and listening to repeatedly. I'm happy to say that this year, you are looking at the record that earned that distinction from me. From the powerful to mellow switches of the opener, "Lay Me Back Down," to the mourning brass of "New Orleans," and the closer, "Our Way," which reflects upon "never finding our way"; Portugal. The Man keeps a constant soulfulness alive in a large blend of sounds. The album seems to exist in chapters. Chapter one is tracks 1-6, all of which keep a similar, jazzy feel. Next, "Intermission" leads us into the middle tracks, which have little in common with the rest from a sound perspective. Lastly, we encounter one of the better album-ending sequences since Abbey Road (I'm referring to the last 5 tracks' continuity of course). From 11 to 15, you can feel the album slowing, and reflecting gradually, but rarely is the listener conscious of a track change, making for one extended and enjoyable end to the experience. For comparisons, check out The Sound of Animals Fighting, Minus the Bear and Wolf Parade; but these guys are extremely hard to pigeonhole, so take that with a grain of salt.
Best Track: "1989"