Portugal. The Man: In The Mountain In The Cloud

Portugal. The Man
In The Mountain In The Cloud
(Atlantic Records)

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With the release of their sixth album in as many years, Portugal. The Man (yes, that period belongs there) should be given credit due to their diversity of sound – which probably has to do with the changing cast of band members– from album to album. In The Mountain In The Cloud can be likened to a well-written term paper: a strong introduction, conclusion and topic sentences, with the rest of the text serving as support. The tracks at the beginning and end of the album are solid and ambitious, with a few gems that are sprinkled throughout; but in between these so-called gems lay tracks that, while still musically competent and aurally pleasing, tend to play a bit flatter, with a more mainstream sound that verges on repetitive.

“You Carried Us” and “Share With Me The Sun”  are two standout, dream-like tracks that mirror each other in music and lyric, although differ in key and arrangement, transcend what a normal categorization or musical description can offer; these tracks invoke a sanctity, a sort of reverent sound that promises a healthy dose of nostalgia. Many of the tracks, including the  aforementioned, are bursting with sound, with doubled vocal lines, various harmonies and echoes and some intense (as in seven minute long) instrumental interludes.

Another noteworthy track is the extensive, aching, hopeful, evocative (yes, it was necessary to use that many adjectives) “Sleep Forever.” As the last track on the album, this song successfully keeps the listener dialed into its over six minutes of thoughtful and heartfelt musings on the finiteness of life; the all-encompassing nature of the song, from the sweeping strings to the earnest lyrics, affects the listener as if it was written solely for him or her.

With the vocal lines leaning toward a rock/pop/drama-filled (if only due to the high range) feel, with a hint of a Freddie Mercury-esque flair and a whole heck of a lot of vocal prowess, the arresting tone and the well-crafted musicianship of a majority of the tracks substantiates the scattered supporting tracks that don’t quite match up musically.

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