Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Shins : Port of Morrow

The Shins will leave you with questions. Why does frontman James Mercer sing with a British accent? What is a “goathead tune?” Will the Shins be the Shins after a five-year silence and major personnel changes? With regard to the first two, we may never know. However, after the release of their latest album, Port of Morrow, we can give that last question a confident “Yes.”

While the album has fewer of those little sonic flourishes– the beeps, buzzes, and shimmers– that made 2006’s Wincing the Night Away so wonderfully weird, Port of Morrow speaks to a comfortable maturation.

In the five years between albums, Mercer most notably teamed up with producer Brian Burton on one of the most buzzed about projects of 2010, Broken Bells.

With Broken Bells, we got to listen in on some other planet’s indie rock scene. Though, underneath the mellotron and synth, the sounds of the Shins was bleeding through. It was obvious that Mercer’s strong and distinctive style is the group’s lifeblood, regardless of drummer.

One of best examples of that is the new album’s first single, “Simple Song,” which has classic charging, Shins hookiness, but is more grounded than previous works. Take the line “I know things can really get rough when you go it alone.” It’s miraculously intelligible.

Another marker of growth is “40 Mark Strasse,” which showcases Mercer’s ghostly whistling and tableaux of moderate suburban malaise, but also a bolder, swelling, 80s-tinged chorus. This time around, their Brit pop bounce has been replaced with a subtle 80s sheen.

The only new question Port of Morrow leaves is whether that thing on the cover is a llama or Donnie Darko.

No comments: