Shins – Port of Morrow

January 01, 1970

(Aural Apothecary/Columbia)


It’s been an agonizing five
years since the last Shins album and indeed, in that time much has transpired
within their ranks. For starters, chief Shin James Mercer has solidified his
grasp on the group’s direction, having successfully shed his former band mates
and opted instead for various musicians for hire to do his bidding. For
another, it finds him operating under the auspices of his own Aural Apothecary
label, keeping his indie cred intact despite the fact that it weighs in under
the Columbia Records umbrella.


It would be cynical to
suggest that the new album’s more accessible sound had anything to do with the
need to please the corporate masters, and even testier to dismiss their melodic
acumen at all. Kudos are well deserved in fact, thanks to a wide-eyed,
assertive sound that leaps from these grooves and grabs attention straight from
the get-go. The triumphant rattle of “Simple Song,” an upbeat and engaging
“September” and the ultra radio-worthy “Fall of ‘82” (think Steely Dan prior to
their jazzier inclinations) all confirm Mercer’s obvious acumen when it comes
to merging indie acumen with popular appeal. It is a bit of a surprise to find
them drifting so frequently into dreamier terrain, but given Mercer’s soaring,
winsome vocals, the usually clever wordplay and the instant embrace afforded by
such songs as “It’s Only Life,” “For a Fool” and 40 Mark Strasse,” all complaints
are negligible.


Truth be told, longtime
fans may be disappointed by the bolder sound and what that bodes for its
commercial prospects, not to mention the suggestion that this is more a Mercer
solo vehicle than a Shins record in the truest sense. And yet, in terms of pure
triumph, Port of Morrow provides its
listeners with safe harbor regardless.

DOWNLOAD: “Simple Song,” “Fall of ’82,” “For a Fool” LEE


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