In the Mountain in the Cloud
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12 of 12 found the following review helpful:
Surprised. Jul 21, 2011
I have been a fan for a while now, and loved their past efforts. I was worried their foray into a major label would dampen their sound or creativity, well I was wrong. This album is for the lovers of psychedelia and soaring vocals, if a man exercising his falsetto scares you, look elsewhere. It sounds grandiose but it is not pretentious in any way. The opening track "So American" is an instant hook that draws you in, complete with steel drum and all. The second song that really caught my attention (and my favorite track) is the fifth track "Head Is a Flame (Cool with It)" The vocals, guitars, bass, and atmosphere all have such an eerie nostalgic feel and pacing, the best chorus and solo in all the album leaves me humming and singing all day. I want to keep this review brief so I urge all who liked their previous work to support and buy this record.
3 of 3 found the following review helpful:
PTM does it again! Aug 29, 2011
Portugal. The Man keeps their amazing streak of doing something different on each album alive with this '70s drenched, T-Rex meets Electric Light Orchestra, alternative pop masterpiece. Incorporating a little of everything they've done before- progressive jams, folk rock, electro pop- while pushing the boundaries of the studio to new limits, Portugal. The Man has created with "In the Mountain In the Cloud" an inspiring 11 song sequence filled with sing-a-long hooks, catchy riffs, and just enough room for some serious exploration when they take these songs to the stage.
The album opens with the one-two punch of "So American"/"Floating", two tracks seeped in strings and percussion that instantly evokes the studio wizardry of mid-seventies Bowie. "Senseless" soon follows and is drenched in guitar noise, in which lead singer/guitarist John Gourley proves his guitar mastery by doing everything with his six strings but soloing. "Once Was One" starts off sounding like a "Censored Colors" outtake before it evolves into another sweeping, drum-machine driven epic. What may be the best song PTM has ever released, "All Your Light" finds it's roots in "American Ghetto"'s dark second half. Ominous keyboards give way to a pounding drum beat over which Gourley's voice soars, at times playing call and response with the band's almost tribal backing vocals. Then, out of nowhere, the band drops into a seriously tight jam that harkens back to the band's first album, "Waiter: You Vultures!"
Lyrically, the band explores some darker places. Vietnam, politicians, growing old, "So American" is NOT a compliment, "All Your Light" CAN'T save me, and "Sleep Forever", the closing track, ends with the lines "everything is perfectly messed up again". For all the catchy riffs, quirky keyboard noises, and bouncy rhythms, the mood of the lyrics does not seem to be overwhelmingly positive. It is this contrast which makes the album that much more interesting.
It seems that there is something new to discover every time this album is played. If you own headphones, put them on. Portugal. The Man has done an amazing job of creating a sum that is greater than its parts, but to fully appreciate all that went into this album, make sure you find the time to hear all those parts.
1 of 1 found the following review helpful:
:) Oct 16, 2011
By Judah Mcalister
Fantastic album! Love Portugal. The Man
I'd recommencement you only buy CD's from this band. The album art is great.
1 of 1 found the following review helpful:
Portugal. The Man - In The Mountain In The Cloud Sep 09, 2011
By Rudolph Klapper
It's either a blatant disregard for quality control or a remarkable ability to maintain consistency when a band releases as many albums as years it's been in existence - if you count Portugal. The Man's various EPs and one all-acoustic counterpart LP, the Portland-based psychedelic quartet has already far exceeded all normal bounds of output. Where other bands might have burnt out, Portugal. The Man have already traced a remarkable creative arc, from jam-band-ish prog to a roots rock securely situated in the psychedelia of T. Rex and similar glam with 2009's high water mark The Satanic Satanist. In the Mountain in the Cloud shares many similarities with that record's favorable aspects - a penchant for fuzzy guitar licks married to reverb-heavy hooks that slide off the vinyl as easily as the best of their bellbottom-wearing influences and, of course, singer John Gourley, whose Marc Bolan-esque falsetto defines the band's timeless sound.
But where The Satanic Satanist sounded like a new tack for the band and American Ghetto a grab-bag from their past, In the Mountain in the Cloud seems like more of the same, albeit with a major label budget that allows for an expanded sound. Not to say that things here a retread; songs are as distinct as they come, from the trippy opener of "So American" to the barnstorming riff and cries of the coming revolution on "Got It All (This Can't Be Living Now)," and the band's palette is well diversified. It's just that a band as obviously talented as Portugal. The Man, a group who combines standard verse-chorus-verse with midsections as thrilling as the space-rock of "You Carried Us All (Share With Me The Sun)" or switches directions as effortlessly as they do with the sinister synths of "All Your Light (Times Like These)" always seem like they could be doing more. Yes, there's an added dimension to everything here courtesy of Atlantic Records, from bombastic horns on "Everything You See (Kids Count Hallelujah)" (have I mentioned that Portugal. The Man needs to lay off the parenthetical song titles?) to an array of strings that color Gourley's emotive vocals and more. Everything just seems a little on the safe side, content to roam within the boundaries of chorus and hook and Gourley's vague hippie platitudes.
Fans of Portugal. The Man's live show will know just what is missing here - that desire to explore, to step out of self-imposed boundaries every once in a while. For a band known for ten-minute-plus jams in concert and a fearless willingness to experiment, In the Mountain in the Cloud is surprisingly tame. This worked for The Satanic Satanist because that record flowed so well and was surprisingly economical; take a track out on that record and the album would have suffered for it. Here, songs like "Senseless" or "Share With Me The Sun" are lovely but don't really accomplish anything the tunes around them already haven't. That's not to say that In the Mountain in the Cloud isn't a slice of superb psychedelic rock like its predecessor - it most assuredly is, and songs like "So American" and "All Your Light (Times Like These)" are some of the best of the band's career. It's just when "Sleep Forever" closes things out with a triumphant six-and-a-half-minute celebration of the band's sound, one realizes just what Portugal. The Man is capable of. How the song progresses from a light fingerpicked melody and builds itself up almost entirely on the gradual addition of drums, piano and strings and Gourley's beautifully ascending vocals is a singularly powerful experience. When the band ties everything together with a wicked guitar solo and ends with gang vocals raised in almost church-like ecstasy, it's indisputable just what the band can accomplish when they allow themselves a little more room to breathe. There's nothing wrong with writing four-minute protest songs that relish in the best of their psychedelic influences, but it'll be when Portugal. The Man really unshackle themselves and start writing what they do best that they will establish themselves as a band on par with their forebears.
1 of 1 found the following review helpful:
Major label debut proves to be a stunner... Jul 19, 2011
Admittedly, I arrived to the Portugal. The Man's bandwagon a little late...The Satanic Satanist was my first foray into their musical landscaping. However, I've been a devoted fan ever since. I wondered what their major label debut would sound like...and to my astonishment, it sounds just like it should...the same...but bigger.
Personally, I would suggest starting with some older material (The Satanic Satanist and American Ghetto)first, before working your way to this one. Mainly, so you can appreciate the growth they've experienced both in songwriting and production over the course of just a couple of years.
Regardless, if you should start with this album, rest assured, you will still be in good hands, as songs such as, "Floating (Time Isn't Working My Side)", "Share With Me The Sun", and "All Your Light (Times Like These)" stand among their strongest.
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