The element of nostalgia chimes in at nearly every aspect of the Shins’ existence. Though we can’t fully place our finger on why the band is reminiscent of the past, we have our suspicions. For one, the band rocks a vintage sound, reverberating around every corner and bringing back the fun in a vocal that simply sounds like it was recorded in the ’70s.
Another noticeably nostalgic element of The Shins’ work is that it was popularized originally in the days of Zach Braff’s “Garden State” Soundtrack nearly eight years ago. The tones and styles of The Shins today aren’t too different from the ones featured in the indie film, providing audio for quiet sequences of rainy weather or a romantic drive on a motorcycle. Port Of Morrow stands tall in 2012 with a creative spin on their characteristic sounds of 2004.
This is how we know their sound is unique to only The Shins and is withstanding the test of time: A release that falls perfectly in the band’s history but remains relevant. Now that is a job well done.
New Port Of Morrow comes at us from a different angle than in albums past. This year, fans are introduced to more power in electronic melodies as opposed to the acoustic foundations we’re used to hearing from The Shins. Even in the first song, “The Rifle’s Spiral,” a paranormal sound trails into an unexpectedly urban take on The Shins’ way of telling a story.
It doesn’t take long for the Shins to bring back the fluffy and light tunes that made them a staple of indie rock, complete with a simple twinkle of piano in the background floating behind light riffs of acoustic guitar. If you loved the Shins then, you’ll love them now. Port Of Morrow is a continuation of past work, with “It’s Only Life” and “September” charming with hollow noise just as it did in the band’s early days.
“Simple Song” comes in early on Port Of Morrow, showing familiarity for some because of its release as the first single off the album. What makes the song strong is a hook that will have people pressing repeat paired with the right melody to catch music lovers who might not know the band’s music.
Vocalist James Mercer goes into his falsetto at times, providing sharpness and mystery every now and then when fans aren’t expecting it. It keeps the pace attentive.
We worry that the lyrical work at hand might be outdated, though, because it is a little too raw and in focus than any listener might like to hear. A good metaphor is always embraced. Here, stories are out in the open and told as they are, which can get boring quickly.
A perk of something so stuffed with conceptual wisdom is that its title track bookends the entire process as a whole, providing an all-encompassing look at Port Of Morrow with messages like “I know my place amongst the birds and the animals/And it’s from these ordinary people/that you were longing to be free.”
Of course, with everything falling in line with a common theme, artists always feel some sort of reluctance in coloring outside the lines of their concept. Some believe that a well-rounded album is more complete when it allows itself a few exceptions along the way. Others prefer a more strict routine. The Shins have a playfully youthful energy, though they have been around for a while, and their work is sadly blundered when it is taken too seriously. On the other hand, any time there’s a hint of the classic Shins sound that’s been practiced for years is a moment of gold. This is what brings Port Of Morrow to a fundamental success.