About 7 years ago I heard some organs that sounded fresh out of a Beetles album with some Noel Gallagher-esque guitars over that. What followed was something of a falsetto coming out of one John Baldwin Gourley of Portugal. the Man. It was the song People Say popping into my ear buds as I drove around the suburbs of Boston with my windows down. (Coincidentally, when I saw the band play two years later they said that song was written while in Boston.) The band, who is affectionately known as ‘The Lords of Portland’ thanks to their powerful relationship with the city of Portland, have put out 8 albums since 2006. (Their relationship with Portland is actually so dope and they now have a budding relationship with the Portland Trail Blazers and recently did some dope stuff with Dame Lillard at a concert in Portland and played the Blazers trumpets.)
Despite their relationship with Portland, they still have a strong connection with Alaska, where they are originally from (Wasilla to be exact). They’re constantly reminding us of that by showing their respect for indigenous people of America as well as other countries. Recently they showed us this by canceling a show in Australia due to the respect level shown to the indigenous people there.
Their last album, Woodstock, is what resulted in a boom in their fame thanks to their Grammy-Award winning song Feel It Still. But they start making waves deep in the indie world with their release of Waiter: “You Vultures!” back in 2006. The album that was recorded in Washington state featured a lot of electronic drums and synthesizers. The next two albums made a move to less electronic drums and synthesizers for the next two albums, but they came back hot early in The Satanic Satanist in 2009. That album started off with the previously mentioned People Say smoothly transitioning into Work All Day. This album set the tone for their future. With synthesizers driving Lovers in Love and powerful lyrics throughout the album such as “All the people, they say:
“What a lovely day, yeah, we won the war
May have lost a million men, but we’ve got a million more”” in People Say, the band was poising themselves for greatness.
Two years and two albums later, The Lords had a hit on their hands in So American, which they would go on to perform on Conan. That album ends with an incredibly powerful 6:19 long tribute to rock music of old in Sleep Forever.
Changes were made in the next couple of years. The band started working with acclaimed producer Danger Mouse on an album that became Evil Friends. Featuring my favorite song of all-time Modern Jesus this album has it all; catchy rhythms, popping synths, and great bass-lines.
But let’s pause for a minute to discuss their true greatness: their live shows. Back in 2013 when I saw them for the first time they featured an 10-minute rendition of All Your Light that makes you feel as if their music has become a three-dimensional object that’s rhythm is carrying you to heaven. They played a rendition of the popular It’s Always Sunny song, dayman. Then capped off the night with a hauntingly gorgeous medley of Sleep Forever, Plastic Soldiers, and Hey Jude. I dare you to watch this and not lose your mind.
On recent tours they’ve incorporated songs such as Don’t Look Back in Anger, For Whom The Bell Tolls, as well as a popping version of Another Brick in the Wall that is played flawlessly into the psychedelic Purple Yellow Red and Blue.
So despite the success of ‘Evil Friends’ the band did something they’ve never done before, wait four years to release another album. In that time they worked with producers such as Mike D, Mac Miller*, and once again Danger Mouse. They scrapped an album in ‘Gloomin + Doomin’. They put a song on The Walking Dead in Heavy Games. They also put out a song in support of the endangered Sumatran tigers in Endangered Song. (They have remained heavy activists with the music video for their famous song Feel it Still as well as helping many other causes.)
The album that followed, Woodstock, blew up. It was a massive success, earning them a Grammy for their song Feel it Still. But beyond that the album elevated them another level. Bigger tours, more fans, and more opportunities. They’ve used these opportunities for good, to help causes they care about, like for charity causes in Charlottesville.
The momentum for this album start when they put out the synth-driven bop Noise Pollution, which featured Mary Elizabeth Winstead. With incredible music, socially driven lyrics, and a unique music video The Lords had poised themselves for success. The success that followed is well deserved. After roughly 12 years and 7 albums one of the hardest-working and most-talented groups in the business finally made it huge. I’m sure nothing but gold is in the future from them.
*This article was started one day before the passing of Mac Miller. While much of the music he made with Portugal. the Man didn’t make it onto the album, they have made it clear that he had a special place in their hearts. He has left his mark on the music industry and will be missed.*
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