Album ReviewAmerican Ghetto★★★★
On their fifth album, American Ghetto, which came out on March 2, the Portland, Ore.-based experimental/indie rockers Portugal. The Man continue their streak of brilliance by breaking into new territory while maintaining their signature sound.
Portugal. The Man, was formed in 2004 by singer/guitarist John Baldwin Gourley and bassist Zachary Scott Carothers in Wasilla, Alaska. After relocating to Oregon, the band has become increasingly popular in indie circles through Internet promotion and word-of-mouth, especially following the acclaimed release of 2008's Censored Colors.
This fan-centric attitude is mirrored by the album's release; it was previously only available to fans as a digital download, while the CDs and LPs saw release on March 11. Following the leak of 2009's The Satanic Satanist, the album was intentionally not released to radio and press outlets early. As Gourley stated to fans in a Feb. 11 blog post, "This album is yours."
American Ghetto has a noticeably more eclectic sound than its predecessor, just as Satanist evolved in a similar way from Censored Colors. All the indie, alternative, rock, progressive, glam, blues and folk elements that are typical of a Portugal. The Man album are found on this record, while an increased emphasis on sampled beats and bass have given American Ghetto a distinctively groovy sound that often touches on experimental hip-hop.
The album opens with "The Dead Dog," which, despite having a slightly more guitar-driven sound than the rest of the album, serves as a fairly solid opening track. After a brief, ambient track entitled "Break," the album begins to show its true form with the more rhythmic, "60 Years," followed by the vocal-driven "All My People" and the quasi-electronic "1000 Years."
At this point, the album slows down noticeably with the ironically titled "Fantastic Pace," before regaining some of its momentum with the wonderfully groovy "The Pushers Party" and "Do What We Do."
After the album's only potential weak point - the slightly monotonous "Just A Fool" - the album begins to wind down with the uplifting "Some Men," before closing out with "When The War Ends," a song so absurdly catchy that Apple will be forever doomed to failure if they do not use it in a series of iPod commercials.
American Ghetto is a truly wonderful release by an ever-evolving band that should be readily accessible to new listeners while still keeping die-hard fans more than satisfied. Portugal. The Man's characteristically catchy, yet ambitious songwriting and Gourley's delightfully bright vocals, coupled with a renewed emphasis on rhythm and groove; American Ghetto is a definite success.