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The Shins

Port of Morrow (Columbia)

Reviewed by Michael Toland, Fri., March 16, 2012

SXSW 2012 Records

The Shins

Port of Morrow (Columbia)

The last time we heard from James Mercer, he'd teamed up with Danger Mouse in Broken Bells, broadening his audience beyond the indie rock faithful and giving fans permission to ride the groove. Given the Bells' success, it was inevitable that Mercer would bring some of that mojo back to his main project. Sure enough, Port of Morrow – the band's first album in five years, fourth LP overall, and first for the Sony conglomerate – boasts a certain Mouse-y flavor (though there's no Danger involved), with lush keyboard frosting and close attention paid to the rhythm section's fancy footwork. Yet this is a Shins album, not a Broken Bells LP, so the shiny sounds and newfound rhythmic grace are used to enhance a new set of shimmering, melodic pop tunes. While Mercer hasn't made any major alterations in his approach to Shins songs, there's a new, simplified feel at work here: fewer dense clusters of words, more carefully placed turns of phrase, and melodies that waste little time getting to the hooks or a sing-along chorus. The result of all this sugar 'n' spice is songs with near-instant appeal, whether it's the folk pop of "40 Mark Strasse," the mild funk of "No Way Down," the Sixties slink of "Bait and Switch," soft rock splendor of "Fall of '82," or the straightforward power-pop of "Simple Song." Port of Morrow makes the hooks sharper and the pop poppier, and that in turn makes the Shins sound smarter. (Thu., 8pm, Auditorium Shores)

***.5

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