Every evolution of an organism adds things that are positive and negative. Now, back when I was but a wee-lad I learned this lesson playing Pokémon. I held my Squirtle back from becoming a Wartortle until level 39 because a Squirtle can learn new moves faster than a Wartotle.
Listening to The Shins’ newest album “Port of Morrow,” I’m reminded of my Squirtle. The more The Shins evolve, the smaller the changes really seem to be.
This is not to pass judgement on “Port of Morrow.” The album is incredibly adequate.
The last time we heard from The Shins it was “Wincing The Night Away” in 2007, or as the strange German accented voice says at the beginning of the song Australia said, “time to put ‘ze ear goggles on.”
Now, these might not the best words to describe how something sounds, but “Wincing the Night Away” has lots of bright, twangy and dare I say flowery sounds. Sure there was variety with songs like Sea Legs (which we find it’s more spiritual sequel in the works of Broken Bells), but on the whole the album has some consistent sound and that’s where we find ourselves with “Port of Morrow.”
I mentioned “Broken Bells,” the 2010 self-titled release by Shins frontman James Mercer and producer/multi-instrumentalist Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse. There is a much more layered sound that comes out in songs like The Rifle’s Spiral, No Way Down and Port of Morrow.
In contrast, much of the rest of the album still has hints of The Shin’s earlier evolution. Bait and Switch feels like it might fit in with the songs from “Chutes to Narrow“, but not really at the same time. The sound The Shin’s have in “Port of Morrow” is much larger than they had on “Chutes to Narrow” or “Oh Inverted World.”
Despite being a writer myself, I can’t say that I’m much of a fan of music reviewers. The role of the critic has evolved from the question, “should I buy this?” to the much simpler, “should I check this out?”
Short Answer: Yes.
Long Answer: Long time fans of The Shins are probably going to still love their older works for some time, but this album is an all around good release even if it isn’t their “best.”
The Shins have put the entire album up on their SoundCloud page so you can decide for yourself. Take a listen and lets us know what you think in the comments below.
The Shins won’t be coming to Oklahoma any time soon, but if you’re looking for a good place to see them, they are coming to Red Rocks Amphitheater late May.