The Shins, Port of Morrow (2012)

88691926702
Lettuce Flavored Music (BMI)
U.S.A.

I have a confession to make…I bought a CD – no…no, wait; it gets worse – new.

Yep.
Not vinyl. Not digital download. A compact disssssc.
Save my soul.

Listen. It comes down to this:

I might’ve preferred the record, but I don’t have that kind of change at the moment; I want the artwork; I like driving tunes. For these purposes, there really exists only one palatable solution…one easily, easily scratch-able, fumble-inducing solution.

It’s a high trek holding yourself to physical terms (better not fall off my horse!), but we all do stupid things for love.

the rifle’s spiral;
simple song;
it’s only life;
bait and switch;
september;
no way down;
for a fool;
fall of ’82;
40 mark strasse;
port of morrow.

Hey, have you ever been listening to The Shins and thought to yourself,
“Hmmm, this feller sounds like he’s from England, but not quite; oh – ‘Australia‘ – that explains it.”
I’m guilty.

Truth be told, James Mercer lived in England from 1985-1990 (ages 15-20yrs), but he was born in Hawaii and started The Shins in New Mexico (Where’s that guy’s birth certificate??). I gather England where the “new slang” [snort snort!] got picked up. All that moving influenced more than Mercer’s unique vocalizations. On this album, he pays thanks to his sister, for a positive change (a friend) in life during the “Fall of ’82,” which is written out a little further below.

O.K.

Honestly … … … ?

…I…didn’t dig this album the first run through – but wait wait wait.

There are perfectly good, reasonable reasons for that knee-jerk response: I blame evolution.

Port of Morrow is the first full album released since Wincing the Night Away (2007). At that time, Mercer had just gotten married. So, that celebratory over-tone and gratuitous “feel good” groove we all got down with five years ago was nature, baby. I’m not as familiar with Chutes Too Narrow; I’ve not spent time with it recently, at least. But, I’m chasing my review of Oh, Inverted World here, and they’re…related animals (rabbits, perhaps?), but they aren’t the same animal. PoM isn’t a book full of transcendental angst over unrequited love. The frustration of a man trying to come to terms with his place in the world still shines through, but even though it’s the same man’s frustration, his place in the world has been anything but static.

And, don’t get me wrong – it’s not all about conflict (although, you come up with a good way to build an exclusively amiable story, and you just jot me a little note about how that’s not dull as already-dried paint — matte finish paint… you people…). “Simple Song” and “No Way Down,”  both have that uplifting grace of major triads. (Ohhh, I may have just glimpsed a ticket that read, “James Mercer will be singing in diminished key signatures through most of the hooks,” but I’ll have to take a closer listen.)

Some, like whomever wrote this Wikipedia article, would say PoM has “a more slick and polished sound than the band’s previous efforts, with a much greater emphasis on electronic instrumentation…” in relation to their preceding albums. That person would also leave off writing would-be authoritative sentences with their participles just a-daaaanglin’ in the wind, though, so…you know…don’t believe everything that you read; form your own opinions; know your onion, man! Hast du einen Vogel? Yeah, that’s enough.

Seriously, though. Pains have been taken to spell out proper attribution to the musicians who collaborated here – I hardly think it’s fair to leave open the connotation that they used fewer “real” instruments. The Shins have always incorporated electric instruments. It didn’t seem there was disproportionate usage here (imho). The instruments used are: vocals, guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, piano, glockenspiel, lap steel, ‘percussion'(?), trumpet, flugel horn, and organ. Who played what where is laid out on the right, below:

(I may or may not get around to typing out all that…)

Ironically, there’s the track “September,” which is when I got around to the purchase. That whole not digging the once-through? Well, this is the first CD I’ve bought in…year(s?), so I kiiinda wanted to joy ride it around town. The problem is, when you’re listening to music on a car stereo, you shouldn’t really listen to every track at the same volume (however much they’ve tried to compress it into the mid-tones). It’s like speaking in monotone. Not all statements require the same emphasis. I’ve spent time Wincing the Night Away on my automobile audio; I know which celebratory tracks to crank up during the cruise and which need to retain more delicate intonations. NOT SO with Port of Morrow. It was a nice day, the windows were down, and I felt *so/cool* with my hip, new tunes; I just let ‘er rip. Apparently, a little more finesse needs to be exercised for proper enjoyment.

It’s a good album. I’m glad it was finally released.

FALL OF ’82

I DO RELATE TO YOU IN SO
MANY WAYS. BUT I DIDN’T
GO THROUGH WHAT YOU MUST
HAVE IN THOSE EARLY DAYS. YOU HAD TO BE SO STRONG AT
SUCH A VERY YOUNG AGE. A NEW LIFE ON 1 LIMA
LANE. YOU MOVED BACK IN WITH US IN THE FALL OF
’82. I FELL INTO DARK TIMES AND YOU WERE THERE TO
HELP ME THROUGH. YOU TOLD ME THAT A DOWN TURN
WILL EVENTUALLY IMPROVE AND YOU WERE RIGHT SO
I’M THANKING YOU NOW.    SO WON’T YOU LISTEN TO ME NOW.
THERE’S SOMETHING I NEVER TOLD YOU AND I’M ABOUT TO
TRY. SEE YOU WERE MY LIFE LINE WHEN THE WORLD WAS
EXPLODING. YOU KNOW IN THE COURSE OF OUR COMING UP
I CAME TO RELY ON YOU WHEN THINGS GOT ROUGH.
‘CAUSE YOU WERE STREET-WISE AND INCREDIBLY TOUGH. A
SOURCE OF LOVE. YES, VERY MUCH. SO WON’T YOU LISTEN
TO ME NOW. THERE’S SOMETHING I NEVER TOLD YOU
AND I’M ABOUT TO TRY. SEE YOU WERE MY LIFE LINE WHEN THE
WORLD WAS EXPLODING. FOOTHOLDS ERODING. HAD YOU NEVER
BEEN MY FRIEND. I WOULDN’T BE QUITE WHAT YOU SEE. I
WOULDN’T BE THE MAN I AM.    SISTER YOU’VE KNOWN ME
LOST IN A STRANGE WORLD. WHAT HAS IT SHOWN ME? WHAT
HAS IT UNFURLED?
OCTOBER CHILL IN THAT OLD DUSTY TOWN. HALLOWEEN
CAME AND I WAS STILL FEELING DOWN. MOM, I LOST MY
SWEET TOOTH. WHAT’S THE POINT IN GOING ROUND? YOUR
BOY IS LOSING COUNT. “MAYBE TRY THE LOST AND FOUND.”

Produced by Greg Kurstin, co-produced by James Mercer;
Recorded and produced at Echo Studio, Los Angeles, CA; 
Additional engineering by Jesse Shatkin and Graeme Gibson;
Mixed by Rich Costey;
Mastered by Brian Lucey
at Magic Garden Mastering, Columbus, OH.

The Shins are managed worldwide by Ian Montone and Michele Harrison
at Monotone, Inc.

Legal Representation:
William Berrol, Esq.
A&R: Mark Williams

Artwork, Layout & Design by
Jacob Escobedo
Columbia Records
c/o Sony Music Entertainment
550 Madison Avenue
New York, NY
10022-3211

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