Album of the Day: Portnoy – No Complaints

Posted by Greg on Nov 14, 2019 in Music |

Another day, another musical surprise.

Today’s shoutout goes to British-Israeli duo Portnoy, an introspective folk tandem who released their debut album No Complaints on Halloween. The album as a whole is uneven but the good songs, hot damn, they are something else. Though this marks the band’s debut under the name Portnoy; brothers Israel and Mendy Portnoy previously recorded under the moniker The Portnoy Brothers. An amalgamation of Milk Carton Kids DIY folk and the enduring melodies of The Beatles, No Complaints has quite a few songs that linger long after the final second.

The band’s lead single “Spotified” is not only ridiculously infectious it also dabbles in the daily grind of starving artists and how much the digital revolution has changed the musical landscape. If ever there was a song of the moment, “Spotified” is most definitely that song. For reasons unknown the band chose to include two versions of “Spotified” on the album. One bears the title “Spotified (Nashville)” and appears early on the record while towards the back half of the album the second version is more sparse, less commercial, but still ultimately affecting. Other memorable numbers include the R+B infused cuts “You Never Know” and “Simple City,” the enveloping anthem about faith “Seeing is Believing” and the gorgeous piano ballad “Tick of Time.”

Though the duo makes their living with guitars, the reality is their voices pair better with piano and strings. Nowhere is that more felt than on the outro to album opener Celebrate. While the opener is amiable, mid-tempo folk-rock, the outro is stark, cinematic and almost orchestral in its arrangement. That glimpse of gossamer grandeur hints at the promise of what Portnoy can be. Ditto for their resplendent take on Bob Dylan’s iconic “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” which features vocals from British chart-topper Alex Clare.

The album’s three hiccups come in the form of the placid ballad “Teenage Mama” which tries its best to tackle an important issue but ends up veering close to mid 90s Rod Stewart or Sting. Similarly, “Home to Zion” is jaunty and upbeat and has a rich organ fill but the song and the vocals just fall flat. “Sing It Again” has a promising piano and a statement that sort of serves as the band’s mission statement. But the song’s arrangement never fully realize’s the duo’s vision.

Those blunders aside, No Complaints is an engaging album from a duo that shows promise, passion and polish. They’re definitely two dudes we’ll be keeping an eye out in the weeks and months ahead. More songs like “Spotified” and this band will have itself a mega hit.

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