Shins still kickin’ butt

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Eguide Music - JAR­RAD BE­VAN

FOR a fleet­ing mo­ment, this new Shins al­bum sounded like any­thing but.

It kicks off with four sec­onds of odd, elec­tronic, sci- fi buzzing. Wait, what was that? It’s a small de­tail, but it’s just enough to wake lis­ten­ers up.

Quickly the song, The Ri­fle’s Spi­ral, slips back into fa­mil­iar Shins’ ter­ri­tory: jan­gly gui­tars, easy breezy vo­cals, re­strained drums.

But there’s some­thing new here, the ob­scure, woozy and icy synths that bub­ble away in the back­ground.

Port of Mor­row is the band’s fourth al­bum and its first in five years. A lot can hap­pen in five years.

For Shins’ front­man James Mercer, it was time enough to have a break from his day job band and an op­por­tu­nity to form a dif­fer­ent one.

En­ter Bro­ken Bells with uber pro­ducer Dan­ger Mouse.

Mercer’s mu­si­cal hol­i­day seems to have given him new con­fi­dence, a de­sire to be ad­ven­tur­ous and ex­per­i­men­tal.

This al­bum has a widescreen pal­ette, it’s a far cry from the band’s back cat­a­logue while retaining enough of their clas­sic in­die- rock feel that fans won’t be alien­ated.

Port of Mor­row is still dreamy, punchy gui­tar- pop mu­sic but with a ’ 60s psy­che­delic bent and a mod­ern squig­gle here and there.

Bait and Switch is perky and up­beat. It’s this al­bum’s most tra­di­tional Shinssound­ing song with its spindly gui­tars and float­ing melodies.

But then there is the closer and ti­tle track Port of Mor­row, which is in­die- rock meets trip- hop.

It’s a triumph that shouldn’t be buried at al­bum’s end.

It’s also amaz­ingly dif­fer­ent from what peo­ple may ex­pect from Mercer, plus this song is the clos­est thing to his Bro­ken Bells sound.

Don’t know what that says about the fu­ture of the Shins.

The rest of the al­bum falls some­where be­tween these two stand- outs.

Songs like It’s Only Life and For a Fool are soul­ful and pop friendly, sparkling bal­lads with a clas­sic Mercer touch.

The horns on Fall of ’ 82 are ge­nius, plain and sim­ple, and an ideal back­drop.

Mercer’s turn of phrase has al­ways been one of the act’s most ap­peal­ing el­e­ments. He is re­lat­able, it’s easy to ‘‘ get him’’. Some­times he gets a bit wist­ful with all the navel gaz­ing and heart­string tug­ging but his musings are pre­sented in such a way that it’s al­ways palat­able.

A lot can change in five years, what’s still the same is Mercer’s tal­ent for writ­ing songs.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.