http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/ebc811747264ddd033d51d2a6a9e65a3f9a947ba.jpg Port of Morrow

The Shins

Port of Morrow

Aural Apothecary/Columbia
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 3.5 0
March 20, 2012

The Shins' 2004 microhit "New Slang" established one of the more pliant templates in 2000s pop – Feist, Bon Iver and Mumford & Sons all owe something to its frumpy intimacy and strummy, mumbled moodiness. But James Mercer has been stretching for something grander ever since; 2007's Wincing the Night Away was almost prog-rock in its micromanaged ambition. On the first Shins record in five years, he nails a balance of economy and sweep, matching the studio lushness he craves with the secondhand melodicism that made "New Slang" resonate beyond the vegan cookouts of his base in Portlandia.

Port of Morrow has more of a studio-sculpture auteurist vibe than ever. Mercer and producer Greg Kurstin send filaments of Sixties and Seventies radio gold and Nineties indie pop through a picturesque psychedelia – from the "Be My Baby" cathedral boom of "Simple Song" (with Janet Weiss mutilating the drums) to "For a Fool," soul-pop balladry as a mossy Upper Northwest guitar nod. Mercer has been given to lyrical opacity, but these songs trigger clear sentiments. There's a soft-rock e-mail to his cool sister ("Fall of '82"), a moonlit slow dance for his patient wife ("September") and a bright anti-one-percent screed with slashing Johnny Marr guitar ("No Way Down"). The Hall and Oates fantasia "40 Mark Strasse" is especially vivid; Mercer remembers what it feels like to be a shy teenage boy with a crush on the terrifyingly hip girl down the block. "Every single story is a story about love," he croons. He sure retells it sweetly.

Listen to "Simple Song":
The Shins Reveal Track Listing for 'Port of Morrow'

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Bird on a Wire”

    Leonard Cohen | 1969

    While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

    More Song Stories entries »