Tuesday, a great happiness descended on my ears. As sad as I was about the rest of the things in my life, I was incredibly happy that Port of Morrow, the fourth album by The Shins, came out at long last. When I say long, I mean it. Their last album, Wincing the Night Away was released back in 2007 and it was every bit as excellent as their previous two. With such three awesome albums, I was kind of terrified about how their new one would sound.
It happens to the best bands (heck, it’s happened to another band I loved just this year); they put out album after spectacular album only to crash and burn because they either went off in a bizarre direction or became stagnant. Moreover, this one was being released on James Mercer’s own Aural Apothecary label, marking their departure from Sub Pop. So it was with trepidation that I pulled up their album on Spotify and gave it a listen.
Pure. Aural. Bliss. Every one of the songs are winners, from the half-discordant opening notes of The Rifle’s Spiral to the Lennon-esque mellow of It’s Only Life, and they’re more often than not bubbling with hope and optimism. Bait and Switch recalls classic Shins songs like Girl on the Wing, they show that the old sound is still in them but with a forward progression that is both refreshing and a relief.
Here’s a couple of lines from It’s Only Life. This was one of the songs I was sort of “meh” on when I first listened to the album but after I listened to it a couple of times it quickly became a favorite.
Open up that parachute, something’s gotta stop the freefall
I’ve been down the very road you’re walking now
It doesn’t have to be so dark and lonesome
I also adore September, which is in the very purest sense a poem set to The Shins’ beautiful, haunting music. It’s a love song at its heart, filled with flowing imagery and just a touch of the obtuse in classic Mercer fashion.
I’ve been selfish and full of pride
But she knows deep down there’s a little child
But I’ve got a good side to me as well
And it’s that she loves in spite of everything else
Have a listen for yourself! The Shins’ official site is streaming Simple Song and September, on a fancy little player that resembles an old reel-to-reel, right down to the equalizers and the tape moving between reels. It’s as analog as you can get online, and like everything else The Shins put together, it is delightful.
If this is the sort of thing they put together after an absence of five years, I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve got in store for 2017. I’m hoping it won’t take that long, but I’m prepared to wait.