Portugal. The Man, ‘Evil Friends’

If Billboard magazine had a chart for “Hallucinatory Pop,” Portugal. The Man’s “Evil Friends” could enter at No. 1 with a bullet. Working with producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, Portugal. The Man creates a fresh kaleidoscopic pattern of moods and textures. While the writing has a tight focus and singer John Baldwin Gourley sounds like he’s whispering his thoughts directly to you, the rest of the record bursts with all manner of sonic color. The contrast suits the album’s to-and-fro between calm and confusion. “Evil Friends” is not a concept album, per se, but themes and images — toy soldiers, holy rollers, sea and shore — recur in songs to form an impressionistic lattice that hangs over the work. Gourley’s detached falsetto belies the subversive rush of “Modern Jesus,” “Hip Hop Kids,” and “Creep in a T-Shirt.” Before the air gets too heavy with grimy street-level stories, the album pivots outward with the spiritual paean “Sea of Air” and peacenik protest “Waves.” “Someday Believers” is an atypical (like the band itself) anthem that acknowledges despair as it reaches for hope. “Evil Friends” is as methodical as it is psychedelic, as the last song, “Smile,” loops back to motifs from the opening track, supplanting the first swipe’s elegant piano part with a wiry electric guitar that sparks more intrigue than resolution. (Out Tuesday)


Essential “Creep in a T-Shirt”