Portugal. The Man
American Ghetto (Equal Vision)
American Ghetto is their fifth in a long line of ingenious albums from the Alaskan four-piece Portugal. The Man that draw influence from rock, blues, hip-hop and electronic music while keeping the songs grounded with classic pop ideas. It's a departure from the folksier sounds of last year’s The Satanic Satanist—there’s only one song with an acoustic guitar, the rest arranged with fuzzy power-chord melodies, drum machine-inspired beats, booming bass lines and singer/guitarist John Gourley’s confident falsetto. The bass and synths are colored by truckloads of inharmonic overtones and the guitars get downright raunchy (“1000 Years”). “Some Men” features a synthesizer tuned to emulate the vocal sounds of a Beluga whale, and the group got creative with old-school tape-speed manipulation on the final breakdown of “Fantastic Pace.” Gourley’s vocals are modulated from his high-register singing voice down to the lowest reaches of human hearing before breaking into a bumping, hip-hop outro. The band also got more adventurous with their guitar work: both “The Dead Dog” and “The Pusher Party” feature wailing, single-note guitar leads. Portugal. The Man has packed this album with wide-ranging musical elements, but they’ve framed the songs in classic pop structures that makes American Ghetto as accessible as it is experimental.