Shins still kickin’ butt
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.