Four years and two scrapped albums later and Portugal. The Man's latest album is here. Woodstock departs PTM's usual darker, psych-rock styling in favor of a brighter 60s inspired sound. John Gourley distinct vocals carry the transition well, but it will likely be jarring for those expecting a follow up to 2013's Evil Friends.
The album starts out weak. Number One does little to set a positive impression of the tone, neither thematically nor musically for the rest of the album. It doesn't hold favorably against the rest of the album and is even more disappointing when you compare it to PTM's other, incredibly strong, opening tracks like People Say, So American, and Plastic Soldiers. This is quickly overturned as Easy Tiger picks up in spite of the lack of momentum going into it. A strong mix of 60's organ, synth backing vocals, and Gourley's signature vocal stylings. Live In The Moment is poppy and I would be shocked if it is not on this years FIFA game considering how perfectly it fits into their aesthetic of dub-pop.
Feel It Still is as catchy now as when they released it as a single earlier this year and shines as the best example of what the rest of the album is aspiring to. A catchy baseline by the ever talented, part time Ryan Gosling look alike, Zach Carothers, punchy drums, and a preeminently singable chorus. The only downside is that it is repetitive, almost to the point of feeling like a 60 second song stretched to almost 3 minutes. Rich Friends follows with a driving drum lead by Jason Sechrist and strong chorus. The verses are weaker by comparison, but it stands as one of the better tracks on the album and the closest in lyrical style to Evil Friends. Additionally, there it is seemingly a vehicle for a reference to the scrapped double album Gloomin + Doomin.
Keep On serves itself well, but feels a little out of place with the rest of the album. A simple guitar progression from Eric Howk carries the track. So Young carries the torch as the closest musically to Evil Friends, being reminiscent of the closing track Smile. Mr. Lonely shows the sample culture direction PTM is moving towards as they feature Fat Lip for a rap verse which seems the most dissonant with their earlier works. Tidal Wave is carried by Kyle O'Quin's synth, but is fairly forgettable compared to some of the heavy hitters from the rest of the album.
Noise Pollution is a bit of enigma. It was the lead single, but is so vastly different from the rest of the album tonally that it feels like it came from another world where Gloomin + Doomin came out. It is synth and bass heavy and has Mary Elizabeth Winstead of all people providing some backing vocals with Zoe Manville. It is my favorite track on the album, but it almost feels like it doesn't count. It is similar in the sample and synth heavy technique, but used in a completely different approach that I feel is much more successful than the rest of the album.
Woodstock is a good album, but will likely not be remembered in most's top 5 by the time they reach the end of their discography. In truth, I went back and forth several times between a 3/5 and a 4/5, but ultimately, I don't feel the album comes together well enough to get it over that last hump. If I gave half stars it would get that 3.5/5, but I don't.