The versatile trio, The Drums, followed up their first EP Summertime with the warm and honest Portamento. The new record relies on simplistic riffs and catchy bassline’s that set the tone for singer and drummer Jonny Pierce’s vocals. The songs on the album are heavy on backing vocals though, so as Pierce sings a chorus, it’s almost like there is an extra instrument because of the harmony in the background. As childhood friends who met at camp, Pierce and Jacob Graham worked together in a band before The Drums and were into electronic sounds. That electricity can still be felt.
One song from the “Summertime” album, “Down by the Water” resembles a 50’s swing song, and the echo effect is something The Drums seems to like. It adds a powerful and bold sound to go with the hooks created by the repetitive lyrics. The simplicity of the lyrics is refreshing. For example, on the fifth track, “you’re hard to love,” is repeated and each time it creates this feeling that kicks the listener in the stomach as if they were the only lyrics that could possibly fit the song.
The chime, clean tone of the guitar has the same feel as the Summertime EP, but most of Portamento deals with the shortcomings of relationships and the attempt to find purpose in life. Portamento must sound exactly how The Drums wanted it, the songs were recorded and mixed either at Graham’s or Pierce’s apartment or at a New York cottage. Pierce sounds like he’s almost singing in a monotone voice during some of the verses and it definitely works for him. It creates a distance and a feeling of apathy that they contrast with the choruses. This is one of the big differences between their last EP to Portamento, it’s their more diverse attitudes and moods that shine through the new record.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P
Key Tracks: “Days”, “How it Ended”, and “Book of Revelation”.
Recommended if you like: Surfer Blood, Pet Lions, and Joy Division
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!