Back in December 2016, Alaska-born and Portland-based Alternative/Indie band Portugal. The Man released their first single since Evil Friends, their most recent album, which they came out back in 2013.
The single’s full name is Noise Pollution (feat. Mary Elizabeth Winstead & Zoe Manville) [Version A, Vocal Up Mix 1.3], and upon release it immediately sparked excitement and anticipation among Portugal. The Man fans everywhere. They released the single on YouTube, with a music video directed by Michael Ragen. As P.TM have a history of changing their style from album to album, the single could be an important clue, pointing to the sound of their upcoming album, which does not have a release date but will be called Gloomin + Doomin and has been anticipated for months. Additionally, the song’s lyrics, along with the video’s hopeful, but sad description, make definite political statements.
Portugal. The Man is known for evolving over time. When they started in 2006, with their albums Waiter: “You Vultures!” and Church Mouth, they were classified as Experimental Rock and Blues Rock. However, in later years, they quickly developed a more Psychedelic and Electronic style, sometimes referencing hiphop grooves, like in American Ghetto. Their most recent album, Evil Friends, has a distinct Psychedelic/Progressive Rock and Pop feel, with electronic string and brass sounds and synths mixed with guitars and head-bang style breakdowns.
They also have a history of collaborating with famous producers on individual albums, ensuring a completely different sound and style for every one. The Satanic Satanist was produced by Paul Q. Kolderie, a producer of the Pixies and Radiohead. In The Mountain In The Cloud was produced by Andy Wallace, a Grammy winning producer for Rush, Nirvana, and Paul McCartney. Evil Friends was produced by Danger Mouse, a very well-known producer of albums by Gnarls Barkley and Gorillaz. This method has proven the importance of the producer in the music making process. You can clearly hear the producer in the style of the music and the differences in each album.
Noise Pollution is just as different from Evil Friends, if not more so, than Evil Friends was from everything that came before it. P.TM has clearly moved even further toward the electronic and dance style of their music. The single begins with a slightly muffled, low bass line, which later melds with a fast-paced electronic drum beat that you might hear in a dance track. Accompanying these in the intro are plucky lead synths outlining the melody feel of the song, along with background vocals singing “Hello, I’m introducing” to do just that – introduce John Gourley’s singing, a monotone chant speaking about modern communication technology, media, and political references.
The chorus contains an eerie repeated phrase, “So down, is there no hope? I can’t believe in no one,” with a large presence of chords and synths backing it up. The song later moves on and reveals some French lyrics and phrases, and a distorted halftime breakdown section, before finishing with a final chorus.
One can only assume that Noise Pollution is a good hint at the sound of P.TM’s next album, Gloomin+Doomin, but it is not the only hint we have: It is rumored that Mike D, of the Beastie Boys, will produce the record. This will undoubtably emphasize the fragments and hints of hiphop in P.TM’s music. It is expected to be a very interesting and productive mix of ideas.
Although change is a good thing and something fans love about Portugal. The Man, one cannot deny that there was less of a sense of the band in the music. The track was produced like a dance track, and was produced so well and thoroughly that it was difficult to year each individual member of the band, which is something fans have always loved about P.TM’s music. However, this is only a preference and, objectively, the single is mixed very well and sounds fantastic. It’s definitely safe to say that much of Portugal.’s fan base looks forward to any album that sounds as good as Noise Pollution does.
– by Griffin Koelbel ’17