There are at least two things that Portugal. The Man do well: psychedelic soundscapes that float in your head and anthemic rock choruses that make you want to throw your arm around your neighbor and belt it out at the top of your lungs – even if they don’t always accomplish both at the same time.  For their seventh studio album, “Evil Friends,” the adopted sons of Portland brought in melodic genius and sought-after producer, Danger Mouse, to lay his Midas touch on what might be the band’s best work to date.

While “Evil Friends” isn’t necessarily a concept album, John Gourley’s lyrics keep circling back to the same themes – religion, nature, modernism, consumerism and, of course, good and evil. But it’s the clear influence that Danger Mouse brings – his ability to dial in a contagiously familiar melody and accent it with extraordinarily precise accompaniment, which allows the sometimes schizophrenic band to pull off their most consistent effort yet.  Every song meanders a bit, rarely ending up where it began – yet every song has a hook that draws you in.

Gourley stays in his upper-register for most of the album. Songs like “Hip Hop Kids,” “Modern Jesus” and “Sea of Air” are reminiscent of older PTM, but the high-point for me comes in the middle of the album with the punk-influenced “Atomic Man.”

If Portugal. The Man have ever struggled with proving anything, it’s that they can put together a full album of accessible songs that appeal to a pop-rock audience and simultaneously captures the communal energy of one of their live shows, while still holding onto their experimental roots.  And much like Danger Mouse was able to do with The Black Keys, Portugal. The Man may find that “Evil Friends” marks a new beginning for a long under-appreciated band.

About the Author

David Nassar
David Nassar
David is another awesome member of the iSPY team.