The first single from Port of Morrow, “Simple Song,” could easily be an outtake from 2007’s Wincing the Night Away. Digging deeper into the new 2012 release, The Shins’ wound-tight pop energy still persists in some tracks, like as in “Bait and Switch” and “Fall of ‘82,” but a more middle-aged, adult contemporary feeling is setting into the very bones of frontman James Mercer’s songs.
The fabric of Mercer’s songwriting is generally woven from the threads broken relationships, self-criticism, and a distaste of the games one must endure as a grown up. The Joe Jackson-infused “It’s Only Life” and “For A Fool” are front porch ballads for 30-somethings who’ve traded their punk sensibilities for jobs, kids and car payments. “Port of Morrow” is a sentimental title track, seeming to signal a resignation of will.
The overall production of the album, though not heavy handed, is certainly conspicuous, leaning toward John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The shift’s only enhanced by an entirely new lineup of musicians backing Mercer as The Shins. Though The Shins have certainly not given up their waifish ghost, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether this beloved Pacific Northwestern indie band will one day go the way of Wilco.