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
TRACK LISTING FOR PORT OF MORROW:
- The Rifle’s Spiral
- Simple Song
- It’s Only Life
- Bait and Switch
- No Way Down
- For a Fool
- Fall of ‘82
- 40 Mark Strasse
- Port of Morrow
ALBUM RATING: 5 stars (out of 5)