Note, i wrote this almost a month ago and intentionally did not post it (kinda like that angry letter you write and come back to later)...I still listen to the album regularly, but my opinions remain unchanged....just an experiment.......
I've been waiting for this. 5 years in fact; 2007 was The Shins last studio album ("Wincing the Night Away")...I know I know....John Mercer has been "busy" [condisendingly] with side projects....and cleaning house with certain Shin band members that weren't pulling their weight. Not bitter. Just feel neglected.
First impressions: it's The Shins in all their quirky atmospheric indie (rock? Naah) style laced with great lyrics and prominent Mercer vocals....but it's not exactly what my 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 or 2012-self was looking for (especially not my 2008-self; he was just pissed). It is a departure from the old...a maturity... its a full sound that does not leave the impression it was performed in isolation from the world like past work.
Second Impression: Despite not getting exactly what I wanted, it is still a good album that I really like. But if your looking for the inward looking meloncholly tracks of "Oh Inverted World" then you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. The tracks on "Port of Morrow" are far more upbeat in the beginning (using a relativity scale from past albums) and trending toward more mellow down tempo tracks at the end. Broken Bells, a side project of Mercer that I enjoyed, is all over this album. If you compare Mercer's style on Broken Bells project (a Danger Mouse adventure), it is not hard to see the evolution of The Shins to "Port of Morrow." Track 10, also called Port of Morrow, even sounds dangerously close to Broken Bells song The High Road. All for the good though. I can't put my finger on it exactly but I think it's the chill tempo and vocal cadence (just deeper in Broken Bells).
Each track is fairly distinct, opening with The Rifle's Spiral that weaves a drum and synth based track complete with The Shins signature "surfer" (or Hawaiianesq....your call) guitar. This is followed by Simple Song which is radio track and....blah blah blah...you've heard it, it's catchy and perfectly engineered and mastered to catch both a pop and indie classification (Elise will not be happy). I think the album picks up from there and gets better, especially with It's Only Life and its references to Alice in Wonderland. Bait and Switch has a funness (c'mon, it should be a word) and almost a 60s or 70s pop feel with a surfy guitar...then BAM...September hits and the album gets familiar again to older works. No Way Down brings this bi-polar album back up....not a favorite of mine, but it has a great lyric that balances my dislike for the track: "make me a drink...strong enough to wash away the dish water world they said was lemonade."
The next 4 tracks are my favorites: For a Fool, Fall of '82, 40 Mark Strasse and Port of Morrow (also a song name). All are on a down tempo, almost lazy feeling, especially For a Fool. Fall of '82 has a Beatles feel to it (mainly due to guitar scales) at the the chorus. 40 Mark Strasse is one of my favorites with an repeating haunty intro, a great accoustic melody and an interesting German prostitute story line (yes, like hooker...40 Mark Strausse (Street) was apparently where German soldiers picked up the ol' lady friends....also 40 Mark (40 dollars)....."playing in the streef at night"...it's not rocket science, but makes for good music. Hopefully I have not thoroughly discouraged you from the album. I like it and it is well worth the money despite not getting exactly what I wanted.
Join me next time for something that's bigger than a bread box and is not a body part.......at least i think...
Great new video that recently came out too....check it:
Rifle's Spiral Video