The Drums – Portamento

Rating: ★★★★½

After much global adoration, and possibly some skepticism, The Drums return to follow up their self-titled debut.  This outing appears to still bubble and brood, if not more so than the band’s first record, which makes Portamento a thoroughly enjoyable listen from start to finish.

If you wanted to see how the group would move into their next phase, then you need to look no further than “Book of Revelation.”  Bouncing bass rhythms control the sign, and while similarities remain vocally, there’s a definite growth in Jonathan Pierce’s voice, sounding much more grounded. And if that didn’t solve your dilemma, then perhaps you can look at “What You Were” to see the band attempting to distance themselves, just a hint, from their past. Pierce’s delivery is vastly different than earlier work, sounding almost indifferent, in an endearing fashion.  Even a horn instrumentation demonstrates the band moving forward.

You’ll still find some excellent numbers worthy of your favorite flailing arms dance move such as the single “Money.” While the lyrical content may not see the band pushing through literary barriers (that’s never been their style), the speedier pace of the drumbeat and Pierce’s vocal shifts during the chorus will allow any listener to realize this band has hooks galore. But, the first half, while catchy and superb in its own right, doesn’t hold much water to the depth of exploration the band made in crafting the second half of Portamento.

With songs like “Lets Go Surfing” on their debut, it seemed the group was intent upon beating you over the head with these incredible hooks.  But, The Drums have switched things up just a bit on this go round, allowing the tracks to brood a little bit, rather than being so forceful.  “If He Likes It Let Him Do It” has a much darker quality than most of the tracks we’ve heard from the group, sounding more like some sort of dark-wave post punk, as opposed to bright surf-ish dance pop. Even the album closer, “How It Ended” seems much more patient in its approach to grabbing listeners, coming off with a much warmer tone than what we were presented with in the band’s early works.  Musical touches are familiar, allowing the fan base to appreciate the olden days, but the best thing is that new listeners will find themselves rewarded by Portamento’s ability to pull you in for a whole song, even album, rather than just a momentary hook.

While I’ll admit that I have some reservations about the group, due entirely to a live performance I witnessed, I can’t escape the fact that the band simply crafts amazing records.  For me, Portamento is a huge step up, and is worthy of ten times the repeated listens in comparison to the first release from The Drums.  It’s got hints of everything any modern listener needs: dance, bounce, brooding, atmospherics.  You really can’t go wrong spending your time listening to this entire album again and again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/04-Money.mp3]

Download: The Drums – Money [MP3]