Portugal. The Man has been accumulating popularity with their latest album, “Woodstock, released June 16, 2017. The alternative rock band from Wasilla, Alaska, uses memorable and gripping music as a platform for societal and political commentary, an idea which inspired the “Woodstock” album title. Member John Gourley stated that music has the same mission now that it did in 1969, during the famous Woodstock festival.
The band’s current five members include Gourley on vocals, guitar, organ, and drums, and Zachary Carothers on bass guitar and backup vocals. These two have both been members since the band’s inception in 2004.
“Woodstock” maintains high energy and foot-pumping beats from start to finish. Each song is catchier than the last. Themes of rebellion and youth permeate throughout the lyrics. It launches with the appropriately titled “Number One,” which features Rich Havens and Son Little. The lyrics acknowledge suffering and loneliness with an optimistic edge. The chorus repeats, “But you’ll come out alright.”
“Easy Tiger” maintains the album’s vitality with an exploration of teenage rebellion. Its protagonist is “running with no sign of slowing.” As anyone who has ever been a teenager will understand, he is “sixteen going on forever.” The song’s echoing quality reflects the infinite, boundless feelings of young adulthood. The next track, “Live in the Moment,” pairs perfectly with this theme, with lyrics mourning the loss of young love.
Certainly the album’s most popular single, “Feel it Still,” is undeniably exhilarating. Even the most stoic listener will start to nod along – guaranteed. As the title suggests, nostalgia is the song’s main element. The speaker just can’t hold back his revitalized youthful energy. He’ll “kick it like it’s 1986” whether we like it or not. In fact, we should probably kick it, too.
All of this rebellion and living in the moment inevitably results in a crash. “Rich Friends” tells a story of alcohol and drug abuse. How long can someone cruise along masking feelings with substances? Ironically, the song poses this question while maintaining the album’s catchy “sing-along” energy. Fans of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” will recognize the protagonist of the “Rich Friends” artistic music video.
“Keep On” follows, as a somewhat bitter reflection on the past. The speaker misses someone – an old lover? A friend? He wonders if maybe he’s missed out on his own youth. He can’t stop thinking about all of this “all day long.”
At this point, the album’s intensity relaxes a bit. “So Young” pulls in a groovier, slower beat, with echoing female backup vocals, creating a contemplative feel. The lyrics address the mistakes and recklessness of youth, acknowledging that everything must come to an end at some point. This unavoidable end manifests in “Mr. Lonely,” featuring Fat Lip. The speaker feels like he has been completely forgotten and left behind. The backdrop is a slow, sentimental beat, inspiring feelings of hopelessness and regret. To bring us back to life is “Tidal Wave.” Its high-energy beat is accompanied by lyrics about the shaky effects of an aftershock. “Noise Pollution,” featuring Mary Winstead and Zoe Manville, wraps it all up. Its uncharacteristically bitter feeling pulls together the themes of rebellion, youth, mistakes and regret. At first glance, “Woodstock” is just a background party or road trip album. Its catchy, head-bobbing nature is undeniable, that’s true, but its lyrics dive quite a bit deeper than expected. Sure, Portugal. The Man has evolved into something much more radio-friendly. But they are still crafting lyrics that stimulate the brain while the foot can’t stop tapping.