PORTUGAL THE MAN — ‘Woodstock’
THE GOOD: Portland indie rockers Portugal the Man shake things up again on their eighth.
THE BAD: The bouncy “Feel It Still” is a genuine hit. Long-time enthusiasts are crying “sell out.” That’s a matter of opinion. I say, “You should have seen this coming.”
THE NITTY GRITTY: After all, the band signed to a major label, Atlantic, a couple of records ago. And last time around, on “Evil Friends,” the guys recruited Danger Mouse to handle production duties. So why not go all the way on “Woodstock?”
Originally, the band was making an album called “Gloomin’ and Doomin’” with former Beastie Boy Mike D. Most of that project was scrapped in favor of “Woodstock’s” party vibe. So now we get a breezy (albeit somewhat topical) mix of drum loops, snappy sing-alongs and a hint of the psychedelics from past records. Still, what may be disagreeable to some is NOT a bad collection. Frontman John Gourley and company give us enough good vibrations to make us want more.
BUY IT?: Sure.
JEFF TWEEDY — ‘Together at Last’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter and Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy finally gives us a proper solo album (sort of).
THE BAD: Could “Together” only be for Tweedy “completists?”
THE NITTY GRITTY: After making music with Uncle Tupelo and Wilco and a bevy of side projects for almost three decades, Tweedy is at the point in his career where he’s taking time to look back and revisit. “Together” is supposedly the first in a series of intimate acoustic offerings exploring past hits and deep tracks.
Most of this album comes from the Wilco catalog. Tweedy leans in close, his gentle voice accompanied by little more than his acoustic six-string. It’s during these treatments that the songs have to stand completely on their own merits with no full arrangements (rock, pop or county) to hide behind. Whether it’s the gray-colored misgivings spread over “Ashes of American Flags” or the hopeful musings chugging throughout “Dawned on Me,” the material shines.
BUY IT?: Your choice. Personally, I still prefer the full-band versions.
SHOUT OUT LOUDS — ‘Ease My Mind’
THE GOOD: Swedish indie pop/rock outfit Shout Out Louds is back with its fifth.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: If anything, this band is reliable. The formula doesn’t change much from record to record. You know exactly what you’re going to get. And in this case, that’s perfectly acceptable.
SOLs always comes through with bright, splashy, intelligent pop songs. Check out “Paola” and tell me the tune doesn’t immediately suck you in with its jangly guitars, bouncy rhythm and big melodies. You can’t help but love this stuff.
And while EVERY track might not be immediately memorable, there are enough sparkling bits on “Mind” to make plenty of return trips inevitable. From the male-female interplay between frontman Adam Olenius and keyboardist Bebban Stenborg on “Porcelain” and “White Suzuki” to Stenborg’s semi-smoldering lead on the title track to Olenius handling the soaring chorus of “Angel,” it all works flawlessly.
If the group feels the need to offer a smart collection every few years, we’ll gladly accept.
BUY IT?: Surely.