Review: “Port of Morrow” by The Shins

 

Indie music stalwarts The Shins have been on hiatus for five years, but in late- March they released their fourth full-length album, “Port of Morrow.”

It was worth the wait.

Record Rating: 9.3 of 10

Armed with a completely new lineup, aside from James Mercer, who has been the bands driving force since its inception,

The Shins have been able to maintain a consistency in their sound.

Mercer is joined on the album by singer-songwriter Richard Swift, Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer, bassist Yuuki Matthews of Crystal Skulls and guitarist Jessica Dobson.

But there is no question that from the start The Shins have been Mercer’s baby. After releasing three albums with Sub-Pop, “Port of Morrow” was released on his label Aural Apothecary.

Still at the heart of The Shins music is beautifully crafted lyrics. Often taking a pessimistic view of the world, politics, love and Mercer’s personal reflections, this album is no different.

However, “Port of Morrow” offers a little more optimism than the bands preceding releases. Mercer shows his growth through the years, which an audience that has been with The Shins from the beginning has undoubtedly gone through as well.

The somewhat jaded optimism and life experience is shown well in “It’s Only Life.”

“Well, I guess it’s only life, it’s only natural/ We all spend a little while going down the rabbit hole/ The things they taught you, they’re lining up to haunt you/ They’ve got your back against the wall/ I call you on the telephone, won’t you pick up the receiver?/ I’ve been down the very road you’re walking on/ It doesn’t have to be so dark and lonesome/ It’s takes a while, but we can figure this thing out and turn it back around.”

Even with the lyrical strength of The Shins, the album would still fall flat if it was not also backed by the wonderfully layered instrumental performances. That’s fully on display in the album’s first single “Simple Song.”

An organ leading into the song and harmonized background vocals lends a gospel quality to the track. Matched with Mercer’s falsetto, a piano keeping the tempo during the chorus and a reappearing distorted guitar riff, it is somehow blended together to create one of the albums few “rock songs.”

Simple it is not.

It is, however, another wonderful release from a band that has become the pinnacle of the Indie-rock genre. A band that can blend myriad musical styles with smart, insightful lyrics, into a coherent and unforced sound is hard to come by.

And in whatever incarnation, as long as Mercer remains at the helm, The Shins will continue to thrive.

— Braden Lammers

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About hoosierhits
The music blog of the News and Tribune, Jeffersonville & New Albany, Ind.

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