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Port of Morrow

The Shins

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Customer Reviews

Review: Port of Morrow (The Shins)

The Shins, fronted by musical mastermind James Mercer, have been a beacon of musical hope in the genre of “indie pop” since they released their first LP under the name Flake Music back in 1997. “When You Land Here, It’s Time to Return” — The title of their debut release beckons still to those with an eager heart and set of ears.

Since then, Flake Music has become The Shins, who have become far more than James Mercer probably ever intended. Oh, Inverted World stole our hearts with its lo-fi allure and unsuspecting melodic charm, Chutes Too Narrow filled our minds and hearts with lyrical brilliance and wise melodic philosophy, and Wincing the Night Away taught us to appreciate the uncanny whim and wit of an electronic-tinged soundscape. Five years since our last musical transmission from The Shins has seen members gained and lost, and sounds lost and found — All in preparation for 2012′s Port of Morrow, the band’s fourth full-length release.

And it is, simply put, exactly what Shins fans should expect — Unsuspecting sounds and surprising styles in every form and fashion.

First of all, there are trumpets in “Fall of ’82.” TRUMPETS. Soothing, sweeping trumpets with an instantly-vintage classicality thought to be unknown, even in Mercer’s naturally versatile playbook. There is a blues-tinted lead guitar melody in the musically gorgeous slow-jam known as “For a Fool.” And sure, “Turn a Square” from Chutes Too Narrow has a stompin’ blues attitude, but it’s in a completely different vein and is a whole other side of the “blues influence” coin from "Fool."

And certainly, there are many tunes that conjure up more traditional “Shins” sounds — Uptempo tunes”Bait and Switch” and “Simple Song” circle around Wincing the Night Away territory with their surf-rock shuffle and their electronic-shaded synth shards (respectively), and mellow track “September” is nearly a rewrite of older melodies (or, more flatteringly: a stew made from ”Red Rabbits,” “Pink Bullets” and perhaps even a bit of “Young Pilgrims).

Yet, many of the other sounds are a third brand of experimentation: Sonic evolution. The stimulating and contagious rhythm pillaring the mesmerizing “No Way Down” is nearly indescribable (though instantly memorable), the dynamic and anthemic pacing of opener “The Rifle’s Spiral” is alternatively alluring and haunting, and the wicked title track finale is scheming and satiable in one bite.

While the music takes many wonderful detours and side-roads, the lyrics actually seem to have taken a backside altogether, in some cases. “For a Fool” and “It’s Only Life” are mere shells of what Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow -era Shins would have held high in pride. Unoffensive phrases like “Taken for a fool / Yes, I was / Because I was a fool” and “It’ll take awhile / But we can figure this thing out” are barely butter on a plate of unleavened bread. Surely, the tunes are still admirable, but the simplicity of the lyrics overall is something not easy digested in the grumbling bowls of a hungry Shins fan.

The production method used for the record is also unusual for the Shins — The atmospheres of the tunes are clean, crisp, and modern to a T (and this sterility actually fits the record’s vibe, generally speaking). It’s similar to that of Wincing the Night Away‘s vibe, but with even cleaner vocal compression and shinier soundscapes.

In all, Port of Morrow is a Shins album unlike any other — Just like each release before it. Scorn it, savor it, loathe it, inhale it. Expect nothing, receive wonder. Presume expectation, lose understanding. It’s one of those things that seems to be using potions to tie your head to the sky in wonder and unpredictability, if you will..

Time will Prove this is a Materpiece

I would write a longer review, except that most of what I want to say has already been said here. First off, I would like to know specifically of those Shins fans who did't like this album (not judgeing, just curious) what it is that soured you?
I think the best reivew I read on here correctly identified how "The Shins", as their fan base thought of them on March 19, was probably very different from what those who called themselves fans thought after Oh, Inverted World was released. That is to say, each one of their albums has built on the last both stylistically and in terms of studio production. I will concede that this album takes a larger leap foward in both areas than the skips and hops we saw between the first 3 albums.
Point being, James Mercer has had a lot more time to evovle as an artist during the 5 years since "Wincing" with side projects like Broken Bells, whose influence can clearly be heard throughout this record. I, for one, am completely behind this evolution and applaud artists who are not satisfied by churning out the same record of "fan favorites" album after album, without so much as a hint of innovation in their sound.
I think the parallel to the Beatles that was made elsehwere here is not off base, or blasphemous, I say that as someone who was raised on the Beatles and holds them in the highest regard. The parallel is actually quite accurate, on a number of levels. and is not the mere statment of grandeur some may interpret it as.
Much in the way the Beatles evolved their sound by gaining mastery in the studio and collaborating with their peers (Clapton, Dylan, Billy Preston) all in the interst of seeking new sounds & textures to color their brilliant songwriting, Mercer has continually done the same. Think back to a song like "Sea Legs" from Wincing the Night Away; that most surely was an unexpected and pleasant experiement. To me that is what most of this album is.....a very pleasant experiement; one that has left me wanting with bated breath, eager to see what other Rabbits Mercer and this new band of his can pull from their collective hat . Hopefully we'll find out in less than 5 years (I guess good things do come to those who wait, except for GnR fans, that is)

big fan-not feeling it

Love the Shins but first listen left me uninspired.

Biography

Formed: 1997 in Albuquerque, NM

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

A classic guitar pop group almost nine years in the making, Albuquerque, New Mexico's the Shins began in 1997 as the side project of singer/songwriter and guitarist James Mercer's primary band, Flake. Mercer formed Flake in 1992 with drummer Jesse Sandoval, keyboardist Marty Crandall, and bassist Neal Langford; they eventually changed their name to Flake Music, releasing several singles,...
Full Bio

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