Finally, after five long years of waiting a new album by the Shins hits the (web)stores. Frontman James Mercer has been especially busy with other projects (including his successful collaboration with Brian Burton a.k.a. Danger Mouse as Broken Bells) but also found it necessary to suspend the rest of the band indefinitely after Wincing The Night Away (2007). Port of Morrow has been recorded in a new line-up but, but still James Mercer is very much the Messi of the team. Everything revolves around the consistent 41-year old, with the characteristic voice. So don’t expect a great transformation.
The fourth Shins album, like the three albums before, makes the sun shine out of your speakers and fill your living room cheerfulness. Ten honest pop songs that you hear once and will not get out of your head for the rest of the day, even if you wanted to. In short, Port of Morrow is nothing more or less than a true Shins album. I think James Mercer is not artistically capable of producing less than a four star album. The songs on Port of Morrow are ingenious, inviting and intimate, all at the same time, but never in the same way. Versatility is a James Mercer-rule, he mixes bits of West Coast pop, sparkling guitar, adventurous indie rock, pure pop and a little soul into a timeless pastiche.
If Wincing The Night Away was bit more polished than the first two Shins albums, Port Of Morrow goes a step further. In fact, cutting of the rough edges is the only noteworthy musical development in eleven years. Considering the five year pause since Wincing The Night Away and the many side projects James Mercer was involved in since then, Port of Morrow is surprisingly unsurprising. Perhaps the new team around Mercer is still too much in awe of the excellent work delivered by the old team, to dare to improve it. This fine album should give them the confidence they need, if James Mercer grants them the time, that is.