For anyone who is even remotely familiar with the group Portugal.The Man, this record should come as no surprise to them. The quartet, based in Wasila, Alaska, is notorious for their impressive and highly heterogeneous musical output, consisting of five full-length records (all with a completely different sound) and innumerable EPs since 2004. Their discography, however, is marked by not only quantity, but quality as well, and their first 2010 release, American Ghetto, is no different.
Portugal. The Man is a constantly-evolving group that manages to remain firmly rooted in their indie rock sound. American Ghetto sees the band returning to the sound of their debut full length, Waiter: "You Vultures!" after their hugely-successful experiments with gospel-influenced and piano-rock records behind them. On American Ghetto, we see them incorporating synthesizers and programmed beats into their laid-back sound. It creates a fresh, interesting combination of influences. The combination of the almost hip-hop sounding rhythm section with the overtly indie rock influenced guitar and vocals creates a cohesive yet fascinating sound. Frontman John Gourley's vocals are the aspect of the music that sees the least revision; indeed, we see little change to his distinctive timbre.
Make no mistake, this record is unmistakably Portugal. The Man at work, but they continue their evolution musically. They've touched on synthesizer-based indie rock, 60's blues rock / psychedelic (think early Led Zeppelin), gospel music, and "Beatles-esque" up-melody pop rock in the past, and now add hip-hop to that impressive list of work. Another interesting aspect of this record is that I've found personally that a new Portugal release always takes me several listens to get into. But not this one; it grabbed me right away. It's an immediately likeable record.
As of the writing of this review, the record is streaming for free on their website so you have no excuse to not check this record out. If you don't have much time but only want to hear a few songs, I'd say that at this point, The Dead Dog, All My People, and Do What We Do are my three favorite tracks. Give those a look. Portugal. The Man is an incredibly interesting, talented, and underappreciated band. I think that this record could be the one that ends that latter aspect.