When indie rock vets The Shins recently released Port of Morrow, their first record in five years, it was going to be interesting to see if they could sustain the run of success that they had taken a break from following 2005’s Wincing The Night. Their fourth studio record, Port of Morrow, was a major return for the indie band. After such a long wait, Port of Morrow found itself in the third slot on the Billboard charts and served as a reminder that The Shins were among the biggest drawing cards in the indie world.
After the long wait, however, the record fell a bit short. It seemed to contain moments of brilliance, but as a whole fell shy of expectations. Port of Morrow began with a bang, as the first track on the record, “The Rifle’s Spiral,” began with a brief mesh of electronic fuzz before exploding in a three-minute hook-filled crescendo. A perfect song to start the record, the sonic architecture of the track was a reminder of what Mercer can construct when he hits upon a perfect blend of synth, guitar, and a fat bass line.
Other highlights in Port of Morrow include “Bait and Switch” and the low key “September.” The record’s first single and second track, “Simple Song” seemed to be an odd departure from the record, as the brisk drumming moved away from the melodic indie pop that has become Mercer’s trademark. The back end of the record did not stand out quite well as the first half, failing to strike any late gold.
During their long layoff between records, Shins front man James Mercer remained a busy man, playing with Danger Mouse as the other half of his terrific side project the Broken Bells. Mercer recently stated in an interview with Portland, Oregon’s 101.9 KINK FM that he and Burton were in the midst of recording a new Broken Bells project.
The Shins also received a makeover during their lengthy hiatus, with Mercer retaining his status as the only original Shin to remain in the band, unofficially making the band Mercer’s solo project. The five-piece Shins now include drummer Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse), Yuuki Matthews on bass, guitarist Jessica Dobson, and keyboard player Richard Swift.
Port of Morrow is available as a digital download, CD, and vinyl. A four-song acoustic EP is available at select independent record stores as an accompaniment to the record.