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The Shins – Port of Morrow – review

Port of Morrow is the first Shins album in five years since their best effort Wincing the Night Away.  It’s also their first album away from Sub Pop, and is distributed by power house Columbia records.  New Album, new changes?  Well yes and no.

Is this as good as any prior Shins album…yes.  Is it any better than previous Shins albums…no.  The Shins continue to do what made them Indie darlings.  The production value is just amped up a bit here, but not so much that you can’t recognize the band you’ve always loved.

You’ll hear a little bit more of an electronic, Beatles type feel on songs like, Bait and Switch, and Fall of 82′, full with a horn section, but those songs still work within The Shins signature sound.  It’s just enough to try and push them into superstar status, without completely abandoning everything they’ve done prior.  It’s a move that bands like Snow Patrol, Rogue Wave, and Fleet Foxes have failed to do.  Those band instead abandoned much of their hallmark sound in order to try and make epic albums.  Epic albums in my mind that were complete failures and wastes of time.  I can appreciate the fact that The Shins like their music, and understand that many people do so as well.  They have no plans to abandon that formula, style and essence, and with such a long gap in albums that can be easy to forget.

The first single, Simple Song has that classic Shins start/stop chugging pop feel to it, and will make any Shins fan, and listener for that matter, happy.  The Shins also try to channel Coldplay and U2 on the delay-riff driven power pop No Way Down, and the rocking opener The Rifles Special.   For A Fool, brings the album down a notch helping to create a variance of moods throughout the entire album.  40 Mark Strasse, my personal favorite track on the album, shows that The Shins can expand their sound a bit with an almost Motown, smooth and easy sound.  Pure genius.  The title track Port of Morrow is a space-age lullaby that sends you off into another journey beyond this mortal plane.

By now some people have professed The Shins one of the greatest rock bands in the world.  I’m never going to agree with the hipster community that preaches their undying love for them, but I will pop my head-phones on every time a new Shins album comes out, and enjoy it like Natalie Portman in Garden State.  They know how to make solid albums, with solid, catchy, fun songs from beginning to end.  This is not going to disappoint any Shins fan, and if you haven’t listened to The Shins yet for some reason, now is your time to jump in.

Grade: B+