Album review: "Portamento"
"Portamento," the second album from Brooklyn-based band the Drums, is filled with juxtapositions. For one, emotional turmoil and pain permeate the 12 tracks, though it's not anger that singer Jonathan Pierce addresses. Almost all of the songs reference death.
Admittedly, Pierce has had some rough times. The band's guitarist left suddenly last year, putting the band's future in doubt, and the album features tales of romance scorned.
Herein lies another juxtaposition: The morose subject matter is belied by the band's pop sound, Beach Boys-esque falsetto vocal melodies and catchy choruses. The album also bears the imprint of early-'80s alternative rock - the riffs of early Cure and New Order on such songs as "Days" and "Money" and early synth-pop on tracks such as "Searching for Heaven." There's nothing complicated here; these are simple, stripped-down songs that show off Pierce's knack for melody.
It's hard to dispute the thematic element of an album that begins with the track "Book of Revelations" and concludes with "How It Ended." On that final track, Pierce sings, "Even when my heart was black and blue / There's nothing like it." But that line perfectly encapsulates how the Drums' up-tempo music masks its lyrics full of suffering.
--Benjamin Opipari, Nov. 4, 2011