As my personal evolution into the alternative scene continued to expand over my teenage years, I happened to find a small little movie called Garden State. In this movie, Sam (played by Natalie Portman) hands over her headphones to Andrew (played by Zac Braff), and tells him that “this song will change your life.” The song was The Shins’ “New Slang,” and effectively helped change my musical listenings. This was the first time that I had ever heard of the band – so in retrospect – it seems like Natalie Portman introduced me to them.
A couple years later, The Shins released Wincing The Night Away, which although went over well with other critics, I personally couldn’t get into it. Although some of the songs like “Sleeping Lessons” and “Sea Legs” still inhabit my iPod, I do not play them all too often anymore.
But before I listened to Port of Morrow, their newest LP, I decided to dive back into their last album, and see if I missed anything. Turns out I did; and it was a much more enjoyable album then I once perceived.
That of course brings me back to Port of Morrow. The first time I took a listen, I wasn’t too thrilled, as it lulled me into a daze halfway through the ten song effort. But I thought to myself, “Self, maybe giving Morrow some time away to sink in will effect my listen for the second plus go-round.” So I did for a week. What did I find out seven days later? That I wasn’t too thrilled, and it lulled me back into a daze.
The album starts out rather strong. “The Rifle’s Spiral” was a trance-laced stomp, with some interesting vocal crescendos to keep the listener’s ears open. “Simple Song,” is a head-bopping good time, which has some really random guitar patterns almost thrown to the back of the song because of how weird our of placed it sounded.
The next song is “It’s Only Life,” a neutral, slow paced ballad backed by whispered whistles and a simple drum beat. Afterwards, the rest of the album is more a less became a blur. Induvidually, songs like the outstanding “No Way Down” and “Fall of ’82” have a pop-mellowness to it that reflects the bands and each member’s personal growth. But hearing Port of Morrow in it’s entirety – the slower songs drown out the fun that the other tracks above hold. Each of them, including “September” and “For A Fool,” saps any energy the Shins had going, and brings it down to a turtle’s speed. There was a time where I thought the album was all one big run-on song, which is a ludicrous claim in of itself, but is what I really felt while listening to the album again. The title track, which coincidentally the last track brings in other vocalists to bring a last bit of much needed texture to the album, but it felt too little too late.
Port of Morrow has the foundation and sounds of a classic Shins album, and maybe that’s a factor of why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. Did I enjoy the album? Sure. Will I go back to it any time soon? Probably not. But maybe each Shins record is meant to be like wine; aged. Who knows if my opinion will stand in another four years. Butt for now, I’m just going to dig around through their back catalog.
Final Grade: C+
Go Download: “No Way Down”