First and foremost, let me just say that I really like the album.
The new Shins album “Port of Morrow” is definitely a good buy for those who like the band or James Mercer’s other band, Broken Bells.
The songs are a mix of fast and slow, blending in the clever lyrics Mercer, who is the lead singer, is known for. Something to notice is the heavy use of a keyboard combined with the distinct guitar patterns that make the Shins recognizable.
But this album, the band’s first in five years, is different from the other albums the Shins have released, especially looking back at “Chutes Too Narrow.” The Broken Bell influence is incredibly strong and noticeable, especially in the songs “The Rifle’s Spiral” and “It’s Only Life.”
True fans of the Shins may be disappointed, but the Broken Bells influence is not something that should come as a surprise or as a disappointment. Mercer was heading in that direction with “Wincing the Night Away” and took it to the next logical place with “Port of Morrow.”
Some of the notable songs on the album include “The Rifle’s Spiral,” “Bait and Switch” and “No Way Down.” All have the true Shins sound with a hint of Broken Bells.
But I would still say the best song on the album, at least for right now, is “Simple Song,” the album’s only single. It has the traditional Shins sound, with Mercer’s clever lyrics and an upbeat rhythm that reminded me of childhood.
The entire album tells a story of love lost and love found and the world surrounding it, if that makes any sense at all. An example of this is in “Simple Song” when he says “A kiss that I kept, apart from everything but the heart in my chest.” Many of the songs on the album speak of the polar opposites. For instance, the song “September” says “I’ve been selfish and full of pride… but I have a good side to me as well, and it’s this part of me that she loves.”
The song is almost like someone who was once in dire circumstances was saved from a seemingly unavoidable fate by the strangest of events.
Anticipation for this album has been high, and for those just getting into the Shins, it seems to be a home run, but that may be a different story for those who have the Shins pinpointed to “New Slang” and the rest of the “Oh, Inverted World” album.
If I have gotten too technical and historic with this review, let me just say, the album has more than satisfied me. I couldn’t think of a better way for the band to follow up its last album, while at the same time gaining new fans.