Review - The Shins - Port Of Morrow
It isn’t often that I get to review an indie pop or pop punk album, what with Rihanna releasing a new single or album every other week and trying to write about every worthy new artist out there. I have a spot in my heard for pop with rock elements in it, and I do like to write about it quite a bit.
‘Port Of Morrow’, The Shins’ fourth album, comes after a five year hiatus that was anything other than a break. Front man James Mercer replaced everyone in the band and started a side project called Broken Bells with super producer Danger Mouse. Danger Mouse is exceptionally talented, producing for Gnarls Barkley (of which he is half), Beck, and Norah Jones, just to mention a few. Combine his versatility with Mercer’s songwriting and indie rock expertise, and, well, we know what happens. Broken Bells’ self-titled debuted at #7 and earned them a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Album (Danger Mouse’s third such nomination).
Mercer left his work in Broken Bells (who are on a break now so both members can go back to their day jobs) a changed man, and ‘Port of Morrow’ shows that. It seems that Danger Mouse being a mega producer showed him what one can do with some help from an industry bigwig, so for the new album the band hired Greg Kurstin, one of the poppiest men out there. Kurstin has previously produced hits and albums for the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Lily Allen, Ke$ha and Britney Spears. So, what’s he doing in the indie rock world?
‘Port of Morrow’ is easily the smoothest, most produced effort by the band, but don’t think for a second that that equals selling out. The album is indisputably The Shins, it just sounds a bit more polished. While the band has certainly always done well for themselves, ‘Port Of Morrow’ sounds like growing up and accepting their place in the music industry. No longer does Mercer feel like he has to play the part of the scraggly indie kid making music in his bedroom; he has put on his suit and gone to work.
Every song on the album is a keeper, and though each of their albums has done extremely well and helped make a name for then, this one might take things a step further and introduce them to a whole new crowd. The indie world is saturated – they all know and love The Shins, so what’s next. ‘Port’ opens the band up to hoards of people who are interested in something alternative, but not too far from the mainstream. In an industry that has seen groups like fun. and Foster The People achieve massive success recently, it might be The Shins’ turn.
Mercer accomplished what so many bands try and fail at: he made an indie-pop album that is commercial and radio-friendly without losing feeling, original style or vision. The Shins have created an amazing album that can please almost everyone without upsetting anyone.
Bravo, Shins. Bravo.
Listen to: “The Rifle’s Spiral” (my favorite song on the album), “Simple Song”, “No Way Down”, “Fall of ‘82”, and “Port of Morrow”