And now, the review:
Port of Morrow is the fourth full-length album from The Shins coming 5 years after their lauded release, Wincing the Night Away. James Mercer, the undeniable genius behind the band, spent the last half decade rejuvenating after burning out on a band that initially started as a side project in Albuquerque, NM. During this hiatus he wrote and improvised music with producer Danger Mouse, creating what became another hit group, Broken Bells.
After literally re-grouping The Shins with all new members, Mercer released his newest manefesto (named for a depressing 12,000 acre industrial park along the Columbia River in Oregon) on his own label, Aural Apothecary, in partnership with Columbia Records.
The pre-released single, Simple Song, is certainly reminiscent of previous Shins efforts, yet a handful of tracks are less soaring, not dull, simply reserved. Mercer is maturing (having two daughters since his ’07 release [ha]) and in a sense, perhaps this album reflects a subduing father reflecting upon his youth – adding rueful horns to Fall of ’82, penning a love-song for his wife with Simple Song, and succumbing to the influence of late ’70s rock on 40 Mark Strasse.
Mercer has created a time-warping tesseract, an album version of the Doppler Effect, revealing his future through a glimpse into his past. Still, The Shins exist, that is true, but Mercer has allowed them to exist only for the benefit of those of us who fell in love with something we once heard.
As oft discussed with ShuaiBaJ, the subtle difference between a musician and an artist is an inner drive to create something new. The news that we will not be given New Slang over and over may come as a saddening shock for some Shins fans – but, to the rest of us – innovation and the drive to become an artist is the greatest gift a musician could ever give.
And I, for one, cannot wait to hear it.