Picking up where I left off with my artists of the decade list...
By all metrics, it would make sense that my personal band of 2009 was Phish. I mean, in case you haven't heard, Phish is back. I saw them 12 times in 5 different states with the results ranging from impressive to downright, flabbergastingly good. And yet, and yet... there was another band who blew me away with virtually every note I saw them play, released an album that is truly one of the best of the year (in my opinion) and, were you to ask me to choose between seeing them and the big PH tonight, I would probably have to choose them.
That band is Portugal. The Man.
At Bonnaroo this past June I saw a crapload of music, almost all of it amazing, but nothing touched me like PTM. And to think, maybe I wouldn't have seen them at all, amazing how fickle fate can be. I was in one of the tents checking out Hockey who had come very highly recommended. They were good, not mind-blowing, but I could see what the big fans saw in them. Fortunately, in these situations I get a bad case of festival ADD and found myself twitching to see what else was afoot. I crossed the grounds and made it to the other big tent halfway through the opening song for PTM.
It took less than a minute before I was utterly floored. Another reason to love Twitter, I can go back and pinpoint the moment:
June 11, 8:57: "Portugal The Man = some heavy, proggy shit. Awesome. Wish I was closer.
June 11, 9:17: "Holy shit! Just wow!I think Portugal The Man is my new favorite band. Like My Morning Jacket crossed with Trespass-era Genesis (but better)"
Quick judgments aren't the best, but after 4 more PTM sets in the ensuing months, including an acoustic afternoon set the next afternoon in Tennessee and a two-river jaunt to Hoboken, I still do declare that they are my new favorite band. These guys are deep in my wheelhouse: extended, rocking explorative rock and roll (think 21st century Pink Floyd/old Genesis) crossed a Motown falsetto-heavy soulfulness and songwriting that stands tall both as arena rock and quiet acoustic gem.
These guys have dumped out an album a year for the last couple and their newest, 2009 release: The Satanic Satanist is probably the best of all of 'em and evidence that the best for these guys is probably ahead of them. The track "People Say" has got to be one of the best songs of the year and will dig a hole in your brain and burrow down for a couple weeks requiring repeated listens and lots of shampoo shower serenading. A warning: don't just download the album or a few tracks, buy the CD itself, the actual thing. The physical packaging is a stunning, confounding trippy tangle of paper and artwork that only enhances the listening experience.
I have but only a couple regrets -- 1) that no one had once mentioned the existence of this band to me beforehand. I can't imagine a better fit for my musical tastes and going to shows with 250 people already deeply in tune with the material was a bit distressing to me who considers himself an early adopter. I even went back and searched 3+ years of GMail archives -- not a mention. How did this slip past my radar? What else am I missing? Don't hold back on me, people! 2) that even with getting in 5 Portugal. The Man shows this year, I still ended up missing 2 or 3 area shows due to those darned circumstances.
C'est la vie. Last year's artist was Apollo Sunshine who rubbed me the right way all up and down 2008. Sadly, they disappeared in 09 completely -- totally off the map. So, my one wish for 2010 is that the same doesn't happen with Portugal. The Man.
A few links:
- My review of their Mercury Lounge show
- Audio -- Downloads (if you have/know of any PTM live recordings, please share!):
- KCRW Morning Comes Eclectic appearance
- acoustic set from Bonnaroo
- Bonnaroo set
- Some videos from P.TM shows seen by me this year:
Plenty more at YouTube, of course.