By Rufus Onfire
The Albuquerque Geek rockers of choice, The Shins, are back in residence.
.. but this time ‘round there are a number of firsts to consider;
Port of Morrow is their 1st album since 2007’s Wincing The Night Away
- It’s the 1st album on James Mercer’s own record label Aural Apothecary
- It’s the first release with what is in essence the Mk.II line-up of the band, Mercer having relieved some former members of their duties post their last tour.
So what’s different really, to be honest not that much in the wash up after giving the new record a spin here at Onfire HQ.
James Mercer and the album’s producer Greg Kurstin (also worked with Lily Allen, The Flaming Lips, Foster The People, Sia and Kylie Minogue) were the main collaborators here, and first thing you notice is the record has a more slicker sound to it than the previous indie gems The Shins are renowned for.
There’s also a fine shot of electronica in there as well, perhaps picked up by Mercer from the Broken Bells side project/album he did with Danger Mouse in 2010. Lyric wise the main focus is on the tried and true topic of love with Mercer now in a period of domestic bliss as a hubby and dad, but also looking at the top to bottom of life itself, from the beautifully sublime to the bizarre.
Traditional Shins fans will enjoy the change in direction as there is still enough of the old familiar tried and true geek beats to satisfy, while those who have come to the band via Broken Bells may well enjoy the breezy like nature of a number of tracks on the album ("Simple Song", "September" and "Mark Strasse") as well as the more pop fused ones as well ("Bait & Switch"," No Way Down" and "Fall Of ’82").
Maybe it’s being the master of their own destiny label-wise, that is the key driver here, a desire for new sounds, Mercer having recognised that the way they had been going wasn't in keeping with the old “Mk.I” group.
Darlings of alternate and indie radio, this record will not see a quantum leap into mainstream residency as you would not expect from a Shins album, that ain’t their style. But existing fans will be glad that while expanding their soundscape they have remained true to their geek ideals.
Another fine release worth the wait.
Rating 4/5 on the Fire Scale (and a grower like all their albums)
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