Review Summary: Guadalajaran indie-pop darlings add a more profound focus on atmosphere to their fairly eclectic sensibilities, and succeed for the most part.
Even if you weren't around during the 80's, chances are you've at least heard the word Menudo. Menudo, for those of you who don't know, were a Puerto Rican musical group comprised of 5 young teenage boys that eventually became the Latin American equivalent of modern day boy bands like The Backstreet Boys and N*Sync in the 80's. By breaking through the language barrier and becoming wildly popular in the States, they really opened up the doors for subsequent Latin American artists like Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin (a former member of Menudo), and to a lesser extent artists like Juanes and Luis Fonsi. Sadly, for every Latin American act that caught on, there were numerous others that didn't, and it pains me to say that Porter is one of those acts that didn't quite make it over. Porter managed to blend a plethora of different genres and styles into one of the most refreshing and entertaining takes on indie-pop/rock I've heard in quite some time.
With a band like Porter, it's very hard to simply draw a few comparisons to paint an accurate picture of their sound. From the almost cheesy synth lines and 80's dance pop sensibilities of Xoloitzcuintle Chicloso, to the soothing indie-pop styling of Host of a Ghost, to the heavy post-rock influences found in songs like Bailando Con Mi Virginidad and Estocolmo (which are both beautiful tracks), it's abundantly clear that Porter is anything but a one trick pony. The band does a great job keeping the listener on their toes throughout most of the album, using an array of different instruments to round out the songs. For example, in addition to the rolling drumbeats, airy synthesizers, layered guitars, and fluid bass, if you listen carefully enough, subtle things will begin to peek through like faint maraca noises, the chirping of birds, and various electronic beeps, clicks, and whirs. Normally, when so much variance is found on one album, it can cause it to feel a bit off kilter and disjointed, but Porter manages to make the album flow incredibly well, given how out of place some of the songs should feel when put next to each other on paper. Sadly, there are a few cases where it just seems like the band ran a little short on ideas and hastily threw something together, namely the song Este Cosmos, which isn't inherently bad, it just never really goes anywhere, but those cases are very few in number. However, even with the all of the solid and focused songwriting on display here, the one factor that will end up making or breaking the band for most is the vocals.
Juan Carlos Son has one of the most interesting voices I've heard in quite a while. In pitch, it lies somewhere between the voice of Coheed's Claudio Sanchez, and the lofty choir boy-esque falsetto of Sigur Ros's Jonsi Birgisson, and in tonal quality, it's almost impossible to draw an accurate comparison, as he switches vocal styles quite a bit, covering everything from a soft breathy falsetto, to a loud and waivering falsetto, to a fairly subdued and (relatively) low pitched voice, and upbeat shouting. The most interesting vocal parts are when his voice gets layered and harmonized, like the harmonized meowing section (no you didn't read that wrong he actually says "meow") in Host Of A Ghost, and the rapid fire harmonized vocal lines in the aforementioned Xoloitzcuintle Chicloso. Also, every song on the album, with the exception of Host of a Ghost, is written entirely in Spanish, so even if the vocals themselves don't turn listeners off, the added hurdle of a language barrier could also deter them.
If you aren't bothered by high pitched vocals and lyrics written in a language that isn't your own, this album can be a very rewarding listen, and even though it does contain a couple of duds, it still manages to be an incredibly solid album. It really is a shame that Porter didn't catch on outside of their home country like many of their contemporaries did. Maybe if they had, they wouldn't have broken up as early as they did, and It would have been very interesting to see where they would have gone after Atemahawke. Still, it's hard to imagine the band creating anything as solid and varied as this album, so maybe it's a fitting note to end on after all.