Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Shins - Port of Morrow (2012)

The Shins return with their fourth album after their triumphant Grammy-nominated* Wincing the Night Away (2007), a 5-year hiatus.

Their three-album contract with Sub Pop expired in 2008, and Port of Morrow debuts on head James Mercer's own Aural Apothecary Label, via Columbia Records.   There's also a new line-up of band members.

In between, Mercer has been busy: Cameos on Modest Mouse' "Florida," "Missed the Boat," "We've Got Everything" and Danger Mouse/Sparklehorse's ill-fated legal-wrangle nightmare that was Dark Night of the Soul and also formed Broken Bells (My #1 albums for 2009 and 2010 respectively).

So, expectations looms large with this release.

The album begins promisingly enough with The Rifle's Spiral followed by lead single Simple Song featuring James' trademark vocal pirouettes. Both sounding more beefed up than usual and slightly vocodered suggesting **gasps** chart ambition, but this actually does not work in their favour.
Their strength lies in their gentler old school charm, best exemplified by track 5 September, which oddly sounds like a throwback to their original sound.

Halfway through though, the album seems to loose steam and focus; appearing to alternatively speed up and slow down hopping between conflicting personalities / moods.  There's a pervasive sense of listlessness.  A different song sequence might have helped it flow better, but is that enough?

Amazon UK version offers extra tracks.

* Not that that means anything to me.

This is infinitely a more watchable version than the official goofy clip

Favourite track:

Should try less hard?  6.3/10

A more agreeable assessment here.

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