Because you had to know that I was fond of you
The Shins are such a smart, thoughtful, and inspiring band. Their music is complex both in instrumentals and in lyrics, and each one of their songs sounds like a story with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. There are protagonists as well as antagonists, and overall, this band is compatible with the feeling of curling up with a good book. It’s warm, familiar, and comfortable, and The Shins like it that way. It’s easier to notice and feel when a certain lyric or variation in the music strikes a chord or makes an impression, and that is what makes this band that much more brilliant and innovative.
Wincing the Night Away was the first Shins album I ever heard, which, I know, is shameful, but I loved their song “Australia” so much that I started to listen to their older stuff. “Caring is Creepy” from their debut album Oh, Inverted World showed me that The Shins managed to maintain their original smart, quirky sound through the years all the way to their fourth album. A lot of those songs shared the same intelligence, and overall made The Shins more reliable and relatable as a band. Wincing the Night Away (2007), however, was the start of something deeper and more emotional, and it was more than welcomed because it now showed a new side of the band. “Sleeping Lessons” has this quiet, stifled introduction that then expands into this burst of vocals and rock instrumentals, and showed depth and tenacity. “Australia” barely stops for a breather, with it’s intricate, energetic instrumentals and some of the best, most poetic and meaningful lyrics James Mercer has ever written. It’s quirky and different, which is similar from their earlier songs, but this one was just different. “Phantom Limb,” one of their singles, is slow and refined, yet expansive and shows off Mercer’s developed voice. “Turn On Me” is probably my favorite after “Australia,” and that’s because you always hear the truth in this song. The lyrics are relatable and personal in that peppy, joyful way and it just sounds pure and genuine. “Black Wave” slows things down in an eerie, mysterious way for the second half of the album, and almost reminds me of a Grizzly Bear song with it’s textured instrumentals and intricate guitar melodies. “Girl Sailor” and “A Comet Appears” close the album with a sense of contemplation and contentment, and shows that The Shins were merely attempting to extend their good reputations with the public, which they wholeheartedly did.
Port of Morrow was released in 2012, and considering that it had been five whole years since they had released a new album, fans were on the edge of their seats waiting to hear what new sound they had attempted next. Of course, James Mercer forming the electronic band Broken Bells in 2010 with Danger Mouse obviously took a whole lot more of his time, and having to juggle two completely different genres while at the same time remaining true to yourself is no doubt a tricky thing to do. Nevertheless, The Shins proved that they are great multitaskers, as heard in the single “The Rifle’s Spiral.” It sets off the album with a bang, and shows a victorious return to the musical world. “Simple Song” is anything but simple, with it’s thumping drums, triumphant, assertive vocals, and overall overwhelming sense of confidence. It’s an incredible song, and it’s energy is the perfect transition into the slower “It’s Only Life.” However, things pick up again, ironically, with the song titled “Bait and Switch,” which embraces a more new-wave alternative style. “September” is heartfelt and genuine, and sounds like a beachy, tropical indie folk song with a Mercer twist, which usually always means vocal brilliance. “No Way Down” and “For A Fool” both take on the deeper, more emotional approach, while the title track and closer “Port of Morrow” exemplifies that newer, more heartfelt, and more affectionate persona in this album that may as well have been James Mercer’s own personal evolution. His voice is synonymous with the wonderfully weird and eccentric persona that The Shins work so hard to solidify, and it’s his own self-confidence that makes the music worth a listen.