Mercer’s sounds reach new heights

Kapi-Mana News - - REVIEWS -

POP:

The Shins – Port of Mor­row (Columbia)

It took a cou­ple of al­bums for me to work it out but The Shins is James Mercer, just as Bon Iver is Justin Ver­non or Sparkle­horse was Mark Link­ous.

So it didn’t cause too much angst a few years back when The Shins com­busted and the other band mem­bers were ei­ther punted or left to open taco stands.

Mercer re­mains and thus, so does the band’s soar­ing sound – though it is evolv­ing.

Ar­riv­ing five years af­ter Winc­ing the Night Away, Port of Mor­row fits some­where in the mid­dle be­tween the clam­our of The Shins we knew, and the smoother, soul­ful pop of Bro­ken Bells – Mercer’s re­cent col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dan­ger Mouse. This is mostly good news. Port of Mor­row is a warmer, more fo­cused and in­ti­mate record than Winc­ing – but also of­fers plenty of sur­prises, from the lush horns on Fall of ’82 to the ex­per­i­men­tal noodlings of opener The Ri­fle’s Spi­ral.

The first sin­gle Sim­ple Song is the most gor­geous track I’ve heard in 2012 and prob­a­bly comes closer to the clas­sic Shins sound than any­thing else on the al­bum.

Un­der­pinned by evoca­tive, heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics, Mercer tri­umphantly moves be­tween reg­is­ters and, as al­ways, knows the per­fect point to crack the falsetto and raise the hairs on the lis­tener’s neck.

I still rate the un­canny, en­er­getic Chutes Too Nar­row as The Shins’ finest 35 min­utes, but Port of Mor­row is cer­tainly fur­ther proof that James Mercer is one of the most tune­ful and in­spi­ra­tional song­writ­ers in pop. Matthew Dal­las IN­DIE: Ben Kweller – (Shock)

It’s hard to keep away from the

Go Fly a Kite sta­ple power pop ad­jec­tives – ‘‘ sum­mery’’, ‘‘ sug­ary’’ and ‘‘ fuzzed- out’’ – when de­scrib­ing Ben Kweller’s sound. Put it down to his youth­ful lyrics and at­ti­tude – although, now 30, he has been tour­ing since he was 15 and al­ready has five solo al­bums to his name – and a knack for craft­ing catchy gui­tar riffs.

But Kweller has also strug­gled for con­sis­tency across a record and his play­ful lyrics can be too twee or just plain silly. Go Fly a Kite con­tin­ues in this vein.

The song Full Cir­cle will hook you on the first lis­ten and buzz around your head all day but noth­ing else comes close, and a cou­ple of tracks will an­noy the hell out of you. The mind­numb­ing lyrics of Jealous Girl made me want to stick sharp things in my ears. There’s a song or two like this on ev­ery al­bum.

I love Kweller’s en­thu­si­asm and that he wears his heart on his sleeve, and I’ll look for­ward to the day he puts out a ‘‘best of’’ – or I com­pile one my­self.

Matthew Dal­las

Photo: WIRE IM­AGE

Ex­pand­ing sound: James Mercer takes the sweet pop of The Shins to in­trigu­ing new places on Port of Mor­row.

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