Album Review: The Shins—”Port Of Morrow”

By Emily Scherzinger

To mention that you like The Shins is to be like the character of Summer Finn mentioning the band The Smiths to Tom Hansen in the elevator (or as many people may know them, the gorgeous actress/musician Zooey Deschanel talking to actor Joseph Gordon Levitt) in the hit-movie “500 Days of Summer”; the Shins are relatively unknown to mainstream music listeners and when they are mentioned, people can not help but appreciate your good musical taste and maybe even fall in love with you a little. This comes with a price, though–you may look like a total idiot if the band puts out something like The Shins did with their 2003 flop, Chutes Too Narrow. Luckily, this is not the case with Port of Morrow, The Shins’ new CD, which manages to mix more electric sounds with their signature surf-y guitar into a solid album.

While Port of Morrow cannot be seen as a bad album, it can be seen as a bit of a disappointment. James Mercer, The Shins’ brainchild and frontman, gave himself a hard job after releasing Wincing the Night Away, The Shins’ 2007 hit.  This is the plight of many great bands – Coldplay had to follow up Viva La Vida, and MGMT had to follow up Oracular Spectacular. No matter what, these bands seem to be resigned to a not-so-great follow-up.  The difference between The Shins,  Coldplay and MGMT, though, is that Coldplay and MGMT did the Madonna thing and “remade” their bands. The Shins have tried to follow up their hit album with a similar-sounding effort, and that only destines Port of Morrow for Wincing comparisons and fan disappointments.

Port of Morrow has great moments, like “Simple Song,” “It’s Only Life,” “For a Fool,” and the title track, “Port of Morrow,” but it is definitely not as good as Wincing.  Their past effort had that fine, delicate mix of album cohesiveness and originality in each song. This album attempts that, but does not achieve it because a lot of the songs sound the same. I could not tell you the difference between “September” and “For a Fool”; they are both great songs, but too similar to be impressive. On it’s own, Port of Morrow is a nice and solid album but, in context, it’s a disappointing follow-up to Wincing the Night Away.

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