Wednesday, April 11, 2012
The Shins - Port of Morrow
Whenever a band I like takes a hiatus or even takes longer than I hoped to come up with a new album, I tend to think the band is spending all the down time working on becoming more awesome. I don't know what I think they're doing. I picture lab coats and goggles as they invent new chords, tighten up their sound, perfect their song structures, and reinvent their genre before dropping a new album on the world. Although it sounds ridiculous, I don't think I'm too far off from public expectation as it relates to a band coming back from a break.
Here's the short review of Port of Morrow, the new Shins album: James Mercer did not make himself more awesome, his new backing band is not substantially better than the previous one, and The Shins have not collectively magically become better at writing and performing songs. I know we all wanted them to, but they didn't.
Port of Morrow is the worst Shins album so far (yes, it's my least favorite hundred dollar bill). It sounds muddy and dull compared to Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow. It isn't nearly as interesting as Wincing the Night Away, and most of the songs just don't stack up to previous Shins material. This is not to say that Port of Morrow is a necessarily bad album. It just suffers in comparison to previous Shins material and it suffers a whole bunch if you're one of the people who expected James Mercer to blow your mind when he came back. There's a lot to like about Port of Morrow. It's still very smartly-crafted indie pop that sounds completely dissimilar from the output of other bands in the genre, which is The Shins stock in trade. Port of Morrow is worthy of owning and listening to, but don't go into it with your mind pre-blown lest you be disappointed.