Portugal. The Man hasn’t sold out. Sure, they’ve signed with a major label. But if the new record is any indication of what that means for the Alaskan psychedelic-rockers, the outlook is good—very good, actually.
Since their debut record in 2006, Portugal. The Man has released a full-length album each year (two in 2009 if you count The Majestic Majesty, acoustic counterpart to The Satanic Satanists), not to mention several EPs in between. Despite the fairly short amount of time between releases, the band has yet to disappoint. However, In the Mountain, In the Cloud is not simply another entry in what is already a stellar run. It may just be their finest album to date.
With each of their five previous records, PTM has continued to grow. Every new release from the band builds on the sounds and ideas explored in the album that came before. At the same time, they have always found a way to avoid being tied down by any particular genre, and In the Mountain, In the Cloud is no exception.
The new record fits nicely into its place, following 2010’s American Ghetto. It fits so well, in fact, that it almost feels as though it picks up right where the last album left off. However, that’s not to say that In the Mountain, In the Cloud is predictable or boring—quite the opposite in fact. It’s an amalgamation of everything the band has done before, from the electronic drum beats that were prevalent in the group’s debut to a wider array of sounds including the use of strings and horns. But In the Mountain, In the Cloud takes it all one step further.
One of the best aspects of the new record is the production value. John Hill (Santigold, M.I.A.) oversaw the project, in collaboration with Portugal. The Man frontman John Gourley and the band’s longtime producer Casey Bates. Together, they were able to able create a record that has a polished studio sound not quite heard on their previous work, but they also managed to capture the band’s raw energy that is so often praised in their live performances.
Like most of the entries in PTM’s catalog, In the Mountain, In the Cloud is very cohesive. It feels like an actual album, where the material is intended to be considered as a singular piece of art, rather than just a collection of songs. From the vaguely “Space Oddity”-influenced intro of “So American” to the stunningly gorgeous album closer “Sleep Forever,” every track on In the Mountain, In the Cloud feels like it was meticulously chosen for the exact place it holds on the record.
It can be frightening when a smart indie band like Portugal. The Man signs to a major label. Expectations are heightened, and more often than not, an easily digestible sound is favored over something with real depth. Luckily, In the Mountain, In the Cloud avoids such pitfalls. It’s encouraging to know both that Portugal. The Man has not lost sight of themselves despite their successes and that their new home at Atlantic will be one that fosters the creative vision the band has become known for.