Sunday, 25 March 2012

REVIEW: The Shins - Port of Morrow

Finally, it dawned on me this week: The Shins are THE indie/power pop of my generation. They'll be the band that, like Big Star before them, future fans look back to and ask how this band wasn't universally adored.

Not that James Mercer and company aren't well renowned. On the contrary, the band is one of indie's leading lights, still exciting fans for an album release at a time when heavy release date promotions seem increasingly redundant. Mainstream crossover eludes them, however, and they certainly won't be the name on your Mum's Christmas list (only 274 shopping days left folks).

And that's just fine.

Having The Shins in our own litle circle of indie royalty works for the selfish bastard in me, who doesn't want to hear 'Simple Song' in every strip maill from New Jersey to New Mexico (surely  they're both old now....I digress...)

New release 'Port of Morrow' rams that point home beautifully, residing happily in the suburb of gorgeously addictive, sunshine indie, rather than moving to the disparate and shallow city centre that is mainstream popular music. It is a safe place to which we can retreat, when keeping up with the latest fused sub-genres of the music we so love becomes confused to the point of fatigue.

That's nice Ste, so what about the songs, eh?

Well they're everything you've come to expect from The Shins, including that slight dose of the unexpected. The aforementioned 'Simple Song' has been hovering around preview listening for a couple of months now and provides the familiar face introducing us to this new group of tunes, as did 'Phantom Limb' and 'So Says I' on previous records. Before that, though, there lies the pleasing entry point of 'The Rifle's Spiral', a bounding, reflective song with a celestial underbelly. It contrasts exquisitely with its more ebullient neighbour, familiar yet intriguing in equal measure.

September by The Shins

Therein lies one example of just how Mr Mercer skillfully juxtaposes varied emotions, including the more downbeat, from song to song, whilst still managing to elicit an overall feeling of wellbeing as the last tracks spins out. There are lyrical cases in point as well, ranging from the wistful nature of 'September' ("I've been selfish and full of pride / She knows deep down there's a little child") to the seemingly bleak ("See you were my lifeline when the world was exploding / Footholds eroding") but tending to a more optimistic delivery. 'Fall of '82' in particular, from whence the latter couplet springs, is springing, spritely, and would barely hint at the underlying melancholy, were it not for their life through Mercer's words.

The Shins have only ever delivered consistently splendid albums and 'Port of Morrow' is a fine addition to their impressive canon. In my own personal rankings it probably places firmly behind 'Chutes Too Narrow', nestling comfortably alongside 'Wincing The Night Away' for a second place photo finish. 

Such is the quality of all the albums, though, that these placings are akin to picking out diamonds; there are important differences under the surface, but they're all strikingly shiny to the naked eye. Whether new to the band or a long time admirer, I can only envisage most who listen to 'Port of Morrow' to find it quite the gem.


Anonymous said...

i feel like a girl in primary school... i wanna kick the shins

Carlita said...

Your good friends at Music Emissions have dug up yet another group of exciting contests for you in April. This month, they will proudly publish contests for The Shins (today) and Dry The River (4.20.12) , giving away great prizes.

So…chances are, you know who The Shins are. Hailing from Albuquerque, New Mexico, the band just released its fourth studio album, the first off front man’s James Mercer’s label, Aural Apothecary. This is the first album in five years and will feature a new sound and line-up for the band which will make for a great listen. Most recently, Music Emissions posted a contest asking the users which album was their favorite thus far for its Sunday’s Best segment and Chute’s Too Narrow has taken off as a clear front-runner. You may have caught them watching Garden State during the classic scene featuring “New Slang”. Either way, knowing or not, The Shins have a new album out called "Port of Morrow" and it’s exquisite.

Here's how to enter the contest:



You may post a picture of you holding a markerboard, a napkin or just create a file with your device on the Music Emissions Facebook page.


The most creative four entries will win a copy of the new Shins recording! We will be accepting Facebook submissions till 3:30 pm (CST) on Friday, April 13th!