- Audio CD (19 Mar. 2012)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: CD
- Label: Columbia
- ASIN: B006VE679C
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,168 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
Port Of Morrow CD
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Port of Morrow was recorded in Los Angeles and Portland over the course of 2011 with Mercer as usual handling all songwriting duties, lead vocals and the majority of instrumentation. The record was produced by Greg Kurstin and mixed by Rich Costey.
The Shins’ last album, 2007’s Wincing the Night Away, was largely recorded by commander-in-chief James Mercer alone, just as it was when he first developed a side project from his day job as Flake Music’s frontman. So a studio construct isn’t in itself bad news, even if it was like discovering The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian were merely interchangeable vehicles for their frontmen.
Like those icons, The Shins set a benchmark for sublimely nuanced alt-pop, but for all Wincing’s greatness, it lacked the surefooted cohesion and intuition of the first two albums Oh, Inverted World (2001) and Chutes Too Narrow (2003), qualities a united band can bring. Port of Morrow has eight players on it, so there really is no Shins anymore. Insert sad emoticon here.
Mercer’s footloose status means he can veer off-piste, for example his Broken Bells collaboration with Danger Mouse. And Mercer is far too gifted not to deliver those trademark effervescent melody and lyrical lexicons that set him apart. There’s not another songwriter alive who sounds so uplifting. Even when it sounds routine – Simple Song sounds exactly like a Shins song written to order – it works, simultaneously mixing zippy and plangent, joy and resignation. The opening The Rifle’s Spiral nails it so well, you can virtually sing along by the second verse. Bait and Switch’s rich uplift and spangly guitar and the shades of brass coating Fall of ’82 are equally gorgeous, while For a Fool’s irresistibly languid gait is matched by 40 Mark Strasse’s velvet touch.
The title-track’s slinky neo-soul could even be the best track here, where Mercer adopts an endearing falsetto and some latter-day Radiohead mood. If this is what no band restrictions means, you can appreciate Mercer’s choice, and he’s no doubt learnt some tricks from Danger Mouse. Yet it’s obvious there’s a deficit. This Shins is as much about Port of Morrow’s producer/engineer Greg Kurstin, whose previous clients include Lily Allen and Gwen Stefani: for example, It’s Only Life sounds too clipped and Pro-Tooled.
Perhaps Mercer is only really a victim of our expectations as it seems ridiculously churlish to be disappointed by a record with so much clever and excitable beauty. But an unassailable commander-in-chief doesn’t always make the right policy decisions. Note to Mercer’s sub-conscious: it’s time for a mutiny.
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Top Customer Reviews
Port of Morrow is a record that sounds like it belongs in the seventies. The kind of singer songwriter music that at turns was mournful and at other joyous. The music is light and at times effortless. However, its lack of weight also means that it lacks the impact and longeviety many would expect. Bait and Switch, for example, is a pop ditty which is light of heart and whilst you find yourself humming along it doesn't linger as it should. Simple Song is effective and efficient but where it should soar highly it doesn't quite take flight. The vocals are strong and this is a strength and a weakness as they seem to lack the emotive edge that first bought The Shins to fame.
Those are the quibbles. And its the kind of album where expectations are high and you focus on what doesn't work before you realise what does. Fall of '82 and 40 Mark Strasse have a kind of linger aftertaste. This is not just due to the melodies, harmonies and instrumentation. The lyrics are also part of their strength.Read more ›
It's tough to pin down the stars for this one. The songs range from I-just-listened-to-that-so-let's-listen-to-it-again addictive to why-is-my-brain-trying-to-rip-out-my-ear-canal awful. There's a lot of 4-5 star material brought down by weak tracks. It feels like it both is and isn't The Shins (firing the original band would do that)... almost like it's The Shins' offspring, where the mother is Broken Bells. The sound is similar to The Shins' previous work - But new additions to the team mean that there's more in the way of instruments and effects.
Lyrically, it's nice to see that Mercer's ability at crafting words elegantly hasn't been hit too hard, though it does feel a little watered down at times. Many songs keep The Shins' charming style of clever metaphors and honest thoughts... but there are points that sometimes feel a little, dare I say, bland. It certainly lacks some of the same charm that fans of The Shins' previous works might be able to relate to.
1. Rifle Spiral - So the album kicks off with this. It's an excellent opener with a nice dark edge to it, infused with Mercer's unflinching ability to craft such visceral images. It carries a lot of overtones of 'Wincing The Night Away'
2. Simple Song - This is ultimately standing as the 'Phantom Limb' of the album.Read more ›
The first two tracks made me feel like this was going to be another Wincing the night away. Melodic, catchy, full of Shins composition cues, and even a bit rockier than I expected. I heard Simple Song on the radio before I bought this album and thought 'Oh my God, there's a Shins CD I've missed'.
And that's kind of the problem for me. It's good but I don't think it's that fresh. It doesn't sound like 5 years have passed since Wincing.
After a so so mid section it picked up again briefly with Fall of 82 and 40 Mark Strasse. Then I found the final and titular Port of Morrow track started slightly remeniscent of Broken Bells. So overall, doesn't burn as brightly as Wincing, and doesn't approach the same cohesiveness as Inverted World. But then what does?
There are some really catchy songs, and the musical content of the album continues as it begins with the album opener 'the rifle's spiral' - one of the stand out tracks of the album.
It's also got some very mellow moments, that it's really enjoyable to relax into.
Now for the 'less-good' news. Listening to the album on some not especially expensive headphones, I found it hard to listen to the album all the way through. My ears were hurting due to the sound quality.
Doing some googling, I was quite shocked to find on one website, that the album had been measured with a dynamic range of 'six', which basically meant the levels had been pushed really high at the recording stage - that this was why I found it so difficult to enjoy. To put it in perspective, other albums on the website I discovered had a range of 11-14 - cutting through it, twice the audio quality.
When recording quality is sacrificed like this, it becomes very hard to enjoy the beautiful aspects of this album, and it's truly killing me to say it, because I love this album.
Hopefully, they'll re-release the tracks in the future on some kind of greatest-hits and re-master them at the time.
I'm a bit gutted to be honest.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Never heard the Shins before and bought this because I was fascinated by the artwork. Not sure where it would be catagorised, easy listening, definitely fun, catchy tunes and... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Starpup
Classic intelligent pop. Well produced and sounds fantastic kicked up loud. A couple of tracks are less than brilliant, but recommended nonetheless.Published on 19 Sept. 2014 by KSG
The perfect pop album wich make me think of Abbey Road by The Beatles. Give it a chance if you are an adult person.Published on 18 Aug. 2014 by Endre Bynes