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Album Review: The Shins “Port of Morrow”

Port of Morrow, the latest effort by Portland-based indie-rockers The Shins, might very well take its place among the band’s best works—at least, until the next one comes along. :)

It’s been about five years since the last Shins album, Wincing the Night Away, was released, during which time frontman James Mercer teamed up with Brian Burton (a.k.a. “Danger Mouse”) to form the more spacey sounding Broken Bells. This sparked speculation as to whether there would even be another Shins record, let alone a good one. With the release of Port of Morrow, the doubters should be properly silenced. Mercer can obviously do more than one thing at once, and do it well.

There are a number of firsts and/or changes for this record compared to previous Shins projects. First of all, it’s the band’s first release on Mercer’s own label Aural Apothecary, and distributed by Columbia Records (since the band fulfilled their contract with indie label SubPop in 2008). Secondly, Mercer has made yet more personnel changes in the band, replacing drummer Jesse Sandoval with Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse) and putting Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats) on bass, among other changes. And thirdly, the overall sound has shifted to more to a poppy feel compared to the more eclectic vibe of Wincing the Night Away, –a change which some die-hard indie-rockers might not like.

But one thing that hasn’t changed, the one thing that makes this stand up as a Shins record, is James Mercer’s incredible songwriting and creative lyricism. From the catchy opener “The Rifle’s Spiral” to the melancholy of “It’s Only Life,” Mercer (with help from producer Greg Kurstin) has created a well-crafted collection of tunes that are destined to become new classics for Shins fans.

And for fans of the new side project Broken Bells, despair not: Mercer is reportedly working on a new release there, as well. As I said, he can apparently do more than one thing at once. J


  1. The Rifle’s Spiral
  2. Simple Song
  3. It’s Only Life
  4. Bait and Switch
  5. September
  6. No Way Down
  7. For a Fool
  8. Fall of ‘82
  9. 40 Mark Strasse
  10. Port of Morrow

ALBUM RATING: 5 stars (out of 5)

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About the Author


Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Kim Phelps found her inspiration and love for music listening to local bands play in the coffeehouses around town. She soon found her own voice as a singer-songwriter, and eventually began playing her own gigs in the coffee shops. Her personal influences include Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls, Ingrid Michaelson and Cat Power, but as an indie musician herself, she has an affinity for any band or artist who pursues creative freedom on the outskirts of the music industry. As our Indie correspondent, Kim makes a point of highlighting up-and-coming independent acts who are creating a buzz and building an audience. When she's not blogging for us or playing in the coffee shops, Kim works as a barista herself to help pay the bills. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington.

Posted in: Featured, Indie/Alternative Music


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