The Shins

Port of Morrow (Columbia)

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

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw. Sign up for our South-by-specific newsletter at austinchronicle.com/newsletters/ for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest Tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

READ MORE
More the Shins
Live Shots
The Shins
SXSW Showcase Reviews

Melanie Haupt, March 16, 2012

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Suzanna Choffel
Hello Goodbye (Record Review)

Abby Johnston, May 19, 2017

Texas Platters
Roky Erickson
All That May Do My Rhyme (Record Review)

Greg Beets, May 19, 2017

More by Michael Toland
Secret Culturalist Dave Thomas
Secret Culturalist Dave Thomas
Pere Ubu/Rocket From the Tombs frontman tag teams ATX

May 18, 2017

Texas Platters
Walker Harris English

May 19, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

the Shins

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)