Over the past decade, Portugal. The Man has established itself as one of rock’s most prized possessions and a live phenomenon, with more than 1,600 shows under its belt and a storied reputation as a festival favorite.
Originally heralding from Alaska, the Portland-based band – composed of John Gourley, Zach Carothers, Kyle O’Quin, Eric Howk, Jason Sechrist and Zoe Manville – soared to new heights in 2017 with the release of its Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified-gold album “Woodstock.” The album was marked by the astounding success of the infectious single “Feel It Still,” which earned the group a plethora of new accolades – including a Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, a five-time RIAA platinum certification, a mind-blowing 20-week residency at No. 1 on alternative radio, and an inescapable presence on Top 40 airwaves.
Alongside the shine of its myriad musical accomplishments lies the group’s longstanding passion for social justice. In fact, this is precisely the intersection on which Portugal. The Man thrives; throughout their career, band members have consistently exemplified how to deeply commit to both artistry and activism. This dynamic inspired them to officially launch the PTM Foundation in 2020, focused on universal issues related to human rights, community health and the environment, with an emphasis on causes directly impacting Indigenous people. Their continued passion for activism has also led to recent partnerships with organizations such as Keep Oregon Well (mental health), March for Our Lives (gun reform) and Protect Our Winters (climate change), to name just a few.
Manchester Orchestra released its newest album, “The Million Masks of God,” in April 2021 following the live screening of “A Black Mile to the Surface: The Global Concert Film,” a front-to-back performance of the band’s 2017 instant-classic album that has more than 100,000 streams to date.
Produced by Manchester Orchestra’s lead songwriting duo of Andy Hull and Robert McDowell, Catherine Marks (PJ Harvey, The Killers) and Ethan Gruska (Phoebe Bridgers), “The Million Masks of God” presents an even grander scale of the epic and re-focused approach to record-making that the Atlanta-based band has forged in recent years. Their sixth album finds Hull, McDowell, Tim Very (drums) and Andy Prince (bass) relentlessly pushing themselves to create a work that breaks beyond the scope and limits of every previous release in an effort to create their most towering achievement to date, all while sorting through the aftermath of a devastating loss.
“The Million Masks of God” can be seen, in a way, as the band's sophomore album following a rebirth with “Black Mile,” which featured the band’s first No. 1 adult alternative album and Top 15 alternative radio hit “The Gold,” and Hull’s early concept for it was a natural extension of the main theme of its predecessor.
Initially based on a fictitious character, “Masks” began to process real-time emotions as McDowell’s father entered the toughest part of his fight with cancer, eventually losing the battle in 2019. “It became an examination of my own faith,” Hull explained. “While Robert’s dad’s story certainly influenced this album, it’s equally about me coming to grips with the realness of adulthood and that there’s an expiration date to all of this – and how you’re going to live your life knowing that.”
“The Million Masks of God” is a testament to the kinship of its songwriting duo – the bond that enables them to take something so tragically personal and turn it into limitless, compassionate, communal, revelatory art.
Bad Bad Hats is an indie rock trio from Minneapolis. Known for bringing a joyful, exuberant presence to its live shows, touring with The Beths, Margaret Glaspy, The Front Bottoms, Hippo Campus and Third Eye Blind, the group took specific care to bring its fun-loving spirit to its third LP, “Walkman.” Kerry (guitar/vocals), Chris (bass) and Con (drums) let their collective hair down on “Walkman,” bringing raucous and explosive riffs alongside witty lyrics. Though you might not notice from the indie rock exterior, Bad Bad Hats draws a heavy influence from classic pop songwriting that shines through in hooky choruses and strong melodic sensibilities. For this release, the band set out to push its capabilities as a trio. Subtle changes in process helped the band achieve this goal, such as shifting Chris from a wider multi-instrumental role to allow him to prioritize his bass playing, having Kerry record the bulk of the guitars instead. “You can hear all of our musical voices a lot better on this record,” the band explained. A carefully crafted studio sound brings the record to life, injecting it with an energetic voice that is unique to Bad Bad Hats. “Walkman” is the group’s fourth time working with producer Brett Bullion, including its previous two LPs, “Psychic Reader” and “Lightning Round,” and the “Wide Right” EP. Bullion and the band use the studio as an instrument, resulting in their most polished work to date.
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