Portugal. The Man: Evil Friends

As imaginative and catchy as it is immaculate and daring, Evil Friends is a spectacular ride.

Portugal. The Man

Evil Friends

US Release: 2013-06-04
Label: Atlantic

Packing plenty of excitement and quirkiness into their dazzling mix of rock, pop, psychedelia, and electronica, Portugal. The Man's work is as imaginative and catchy as it is immaculate and daring. Overall, Evil Friends is an extremely fun and engrossing record. It’s fair to say that Portugal. The Man is among the most prolific outfits around today, as they’ve essentially released a new album every year since their 2006 debut, Waiter: “You Vultures!" With famed producer Danger Mouse behind the wheel, Evil Friends finds the group continuing to venture into programmed territory (including beats and colorful sound effects), which gives the music a celebratory vibe. Of course, the production would be worthless if there weren’t any hooks or intriguing arrangements, but that’s definitely not an issue since this album is full of them.

Opener “Plastic Soldiers” is probably the most multifaceted creation here, as it contains a few distinct parts. It begins with beautiful melancholy -- like a lost Mew piece -- before transitioning into an upbeat, folksy number full of poppy elegance and intriguing atmosphere. It concludes as a prophetic commentary with reflective piano chords and triumphant horns. It’s incredible. In contrast is “Creep in a T-shirt", a free-spirited and joyous affair that oozes eccentricity as it recalls the uniqueness of Super Furry Animals and Gorillaz. There’s also the title track, a quick rocker with pleasant harmonies.

Without a doubt, the most addictive selection here is "Modern Jesus". Its hypnotic central synthesizer riff is matched by guitar arpeggios, programmed percussion, ingenious sound effects, and warm vocals that invite sing-a-longs.It’s an instant classic. “Atomic Man” is another catchy aggressor that blends computerized, vintage, and modern elements well, while “Sea of Air” is somber and sparse at the start and then becomes more tranquil and idealistic. The fact that it’s so different from its predecessor makes it remarkable; in fact, it shares the same sense of optimism as Of Monsters and Men’s exceptional My Head Is an Animal.

“Waves” continues the discontented vibe, and it’s arguably the best example of it on Evil Friends. A pained ballad, the song features lovely interplay between guitar and piano, as well gripping melodies and an impressive buildup. Afterward, “Holy Roller (Hallelujah)” comes in like a bat out of hell, channeling hip-hop attitude and carefree energy with its distorted vocals and wild tempo changes. Later on, “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” echoes glam rock extravagance, and closer “Smile” is bombastic and varied as it reprises brilliantly elements of “Plastic Soldiers,” sending listeners off with a thoughtful yet bold statement.

Portugal. The Man have created something special with Evil Friends. The core songwriting and performances are top notch, and Danger Mouse’s input adds a plethora of valuable modifications and ideas. Despite the aforementioned comparisons, I’ve never heard anything quite like this, which, in addition to the band’s inventive compositional approach and delivery, is reason enough for me to recommend it. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up ASAP.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.