Portugal. The Man’s newest album features fifteen fiercely transcendent vignettes. The band calls the collection Censored Colors – side one is a half-dozen single tracks, while side two consists of a long suite of compositions, segued together into one seamless presentation. The music materialized in January 2008 quickly, born from the band’s ravenous creative appetite, many months of dedicated touring and their rare commitment to challenging songcraft, all set against a canvas of Seattle winter skies. They did it without outside financial backing and label support; content instead to rely upon their faith in each other, their music and the steady guidance of friends/multi-instrumentalists/producers Phil Peterson and Kirk Huffman (two-thirds of the genre-defying Seattle trio Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground).
Describing the product of that faith is no impossibility. But, like quantifying an emotion, merely articulating Censored Colors countless aesthetic graces is not the optimal way to take its measure. “We’ve always wanted to make a really heavy record mellow,” reveals Portugal. The Man’s John Gourley. “And I think this time we did it.”
True, without question. But the shades that coat Censored Colors reveal much more. Drawing on the sounds of Gourley’s youth – from classic Motown to airy Beatles numbers and the blissful melodies of vintage Zombies ballads – and, indeed, shrouded in the singer’s visual art, Portugal. The Man shaped an organic album that stands, sways and, indeed, beckons as an assured departure from the undeniable rock stomp of 2007’s Church Mouth and the band’s kaleidoscopic 2006 debut, Waiter: “You Vultures!” Mixed and lavished with additional production by renowned boardsmen Paul Q. Kolderie (Radiohead, Pixies) and Adam Taylor (Muse, The Dresden Dolls) and featuring supplementary vocals and instrumentation by divergent talents like Zoe Manville (Schoolboy Error) and Anthony Saffrey (Cornershop), it is Censored Colors by name. But also challenging and comfortable. Familiar and new. Blasphemous and gentle. Undeniably awash in here-and-now scepticism, it is nonetheless hopeful, plump with as many as appropriately imperfect moments as immaculate ones. It is the music of Gourley’s childhood, made artfully profane by modern experience, coming of age and a quiet caterwaul against contemporary living. Censored Colors.