The Shins – Port of Morrow
A lot has happened in half a decade. Hipster kids have ditched guitars, and replaced them with micro-synths and Ableton. Along with the likes of Beck and Sufjan Stevens, The Shins have moved forward successfully whilst retaining a guitar-centred palette, exhibited on their first album in five years, Port Of Morrow. Their last album, Wincing The Night Away (2007) left many yearning for more. Their fourth addition to their catalogue will provoke very much the same response.
Hardly a prolific group, the wait has been worth it for this collection of modern pop tunes. From the opening notes of the gritty ‘The Rifle’s Spiral’ to departing gently through the ‘Port of Morrow’, an adventurous and captivating musical spirit is sustained. Singles ‘Simple Song’ and ‘It’s Only Life’ accurately represent the entirety of an excellent album, instead of covering up ‘filler’. Port Of Morrow feels new and familiar; comfortable and intriguing. Perhaps, there is a sense of the well-worn, symptomatic of a lack of development or not ‘keeping with the times’. Regardless, James Mercer’s song-writing genius supplants that potential, as evidenced on ‘For a Fool’ and ‘40 Mark Strasse’.
Additionally, Port Of Morrow has a wonderful narrative thread of love and domesticity throughout. Far from the extravagant story of ‘love so powerful you want to die’, a la the trite and trashy Lana Del Rey, Mercer’s is simple, accurate and understated. Finally, there is constant binary being played with and broken down: the beautiful and the weird, and where the two interlace, to make a wonderfully witty and eloquent record.