Portugal. The Man have always been about the singles. While their albums on the whole tend to sag beneath an overdose of psychedelic flourishes, they have consistently churned out great, infectious pop songs like “People Say” and “All My People” that are just off-kilter enough to keep them off the charts. Evil Friends, the oddly-punctuated Portland band’s seventh full-length, features its fair share of dynamite tracks, but also breaks from the trend by toning down the quirkiness and, as a result, being the band’s most accessible and enjoyable album to date. That’s not to say that the band has streamlined its sound entirely: “Plastic Soldiers” and “Evil Friends” both feature prolonged introductions that eventually segue into the song proper, lyrics and melodies appear and reappear through the course of the album, and cuts like “Modern Jesus” and “Waves” continue the band’s penchant for (occasionally heavy-handed) socio-political commentary. But on the whole, Evil Friends succeeds because Portugal. The Man have tightened up their arrangements, taking the tricks that make their singles so great and applying them to the whole record. The breakneck title track and the terrific “Atomic Man” both whiz past with grooving beats and melodies that are instantly familiar, while “Modern Jesus” and “Holy Roller” shamelessly turn their choruses up to eleven and all but beg you to sing along. Here’s to a job well done.
Track picks: “Creep In A T-Shirt,” “Evil Friends,” “Modern Jesus,” “Atomic Man”