Ever since release of single “Feel It Still,” Portugal. The Man fans have been at the edge of their seats awaiting the release of Woodstock. Packed with an earful of groovy sounds and vocals, the album is full of experiences rather than just songs. While listening, I was constantly surprised, because the growth from 2013’s Evil Friends is blatantly evident through immense instrumental creativity, diverse lyrics, and perfect timing. In almost three years’ time, the five-piece has put together a record that will top most, if not all, summer playlists.
The opening song, aptly titled “Number One,” contains an audio intro from a festival–Woodstock, perhaps? Incorporating this background noise of a crowd before transitioning into a heavy beat and layered vocals introduces a recurring element throughout Woodstock: taking listeners back in time, before throwing them back into the present with a modern sound that they can’t help but move their bodies to.
Unfortunately, the following track, “Easy Tiger,” was a bit of a disappointment. Because it contains a lot of extra backing as well as layering of different sounds, the vocals feel completely lost. Sometimes less is definitely more, and this song has a bit too much going on. Because John Gourley’s voice is one of my favorites, I was hoping there would be one or two stripped down tracks so listeners could appreciate it backed by just a couple of instruments. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Still, although there are too many sonic elements that didn’t quite work for me, this number proves that the band is stepping out of a box, and putting everything they have out there.
Woodstock takes a turn for the better with my favorite number, “Feel It Still.” I found myself yearning for more of Gourley’s voice, and this track delivered by making it the main focus. Although the song still has a bit of the auto tune and synth noise in the background, the falsetto and the catchy lyrics stuck out the most to me. With Gourley singing, “I’m a rebel just for kicks now, I’ve been feelin’ it since 1966 now, might be over now, but I feel it still,” this track takes listeners on a journey. Although Woodstock began in ‘69, the reference to that decade, backed by the groove, is perfectly placed.
Continuing the album is “Rich Friends,” which really hit the mark for me by including a tambourine. Throughout most of the album, the tracks flow into one another with ease, and, although this definitely gives off that festival set vibe, it also makes it somewhat difficult to tell the songs apart. For that reason, the introduction of the tambourine and the catchy choruses (“I could really really really use a rich, rich friend like you”; “crashing on chardonnay and adderall”) give this song a much-needed edge.
Tracks like “Mr. Lonely” and “Tidal Wave” open listeners up to the contrasts in music and creativity that Portugal. The Man is capable of. While “Mr. Lonely” provides a more hip hop and R&B-influenced sound, “Tidal Wave” directly after it is way more mellow. Containing a bit of a foggy, indie vibe, the latter of the two has just the right amount of instrumentals to smoothly carry along the easy-going vocals without overpowering them.
Woodstock is a major step for Portugal. The Man by demanding a presence in the music scene due to the all-in approach this time around. Although Woodstock didn’t particularly remind me of the Woodstock, the very busy sound of the end-result still gives off positive, energetic vibes worthy of some rocking out. While I ultimately prefer Portugal. The Man’s previous music, I see this album catering many summer nights and being part of many great memories, so hats off to Portugal. The Man nonetheless.
REVIEW BY EMILY GORDON