Alaska is a cold place that’s dark for half of the year and when you think of all that shadowed snow, it doesn’t sound very colorful and exciting. Fortunately, that doesn’t stop the creativity of Portugal. The Man who offer a bright palette of sounds on their third full-length album Censored Colors.
Censored Colors is divided in half by “Intermission,” but is still presented as a seamless album. The first half consists of individual, soulful tracks tied together by soaring string melodies and references to “colors.” The meaning of the word “color” is left to the listener to decide.
In “Colors,” vocalist John Baldwin Gourley sings in a voice you’ll either love or hate as he switches into a very high falsetto, “I’m not afraid to die cause all these colors will change.” On the bluesy song “And I,” Gourley sings “Some were colors that took to the streets” and on “Our And In And In And Out,” he says he’s “bleeding out the colors of the world.” This implies colors could be people, things or ideas. Whatever his reference, colors come in a variety of shades giving him the freedom to use the word in a variety of cases and allowing the listener to decide the meaning for themselves. These songs are meant to be interpreted as black and white. There are a lot of gray areas.
While it is an immediate love for the lyrics, I remained uncertain as to whether I liked Gourley’s vocals, but once I heard them paired with Zoe Manville‘s (Schoolboy Error) amazing voice, it was love. The harmonies the two have on “Salt” and “Created” are some of the best of the album.
The second half of the album replaces the strings with psychedelic trumpet and picks up more of a reggae sound. Each song seamlessly transitions into the next making it so you have no idea when one ends and the next begins. This half of the album is a harder rock. Lyrically it is a little less interesting than the first half as it gets a lot more repetitive. “All Mine” is the closest song to what was on the earlier half of the album as cello leads into it.
The band offers an interesting presentation and with a big difference between the first half and the second, you’re bound to either like one of the halves, if not the whole thing. Whatever the case, Portugal. The Man may be one of the coolest things to come from the icy state in quite awhile.
Portugal. The Man’s Censored Colors is released by their own Approaching AIRballoons with help from Equal Vision on Sept. 16, 2008.
01. Lay Me Back Down
03. And I
06. Our And In And In And Out
08. New Orleans
09. Never Pleased
10. Sit Back And Dream
11. Hard Times
12. Our Times
13. All Mine
15. Our Way
Written by: Bethany