A little over a month ago (six days to be exact) Port of Morrow by The Shins dropped. The album was much anticipated and long awaited, and well a little disappointing. This is not The Shins, or more accurately James Mercer — given the fact that the band is his and he is the somewhat benevolent dictator — I wonder if he has considered a gross national happiness indicator — best music.
My first thought was that if I did not love it that might be because there was so much anticipation and expectation around Port of Morrow. “It’s The Shins it has to be good,” I thought but then had to edge off. The higher our expectations are for something the better it has to be to match them and we can just create disappointment where an otherwise good album is. For example I love the movie Stranger Than Fiction and often tell friends it is incredible and that it will change their life. After watching it they are often disappointed and don’t think it lives up to my endless excitable buildup. Now I tell people that it is okay and get much better reactions.
Second, albums usually get better with time. I like Port of Morrow much more now than I did a month ago. The songs are comfortable and familiar. There are some I really like and some I think the music world would be no worse off without. “Simple Song” is not very exceptional and was a poor choice for a first single. Which raises the question do The Shins need to be exceptional? This is not James Mercer at his best but is James Mercer at his worst or on an okay day still good enough? On the one hand what made The Shins good was their consistency and excellence. They were not your average indie band and their songs were worthy or endless play. That’s how they got from Garden State to having a much anticipated release. Port of Morrow may not be their best but it still is better than a lot of the other music out there. On NME‘s scale I would give it a six (better than average), where a seven is really good. A six is still worth listening to. It will probably not get as much play time as any of The Shins other albums and it does not have a “New Slang” or “Phantom Limb”. However, when one of these songs comes up on shuffle I will not frantically hit next. I will listen and likely enjoy it.