Port of Morrow

Calling Port of Morrow a Shins album is a point of contention among indie-rock consumers (i.e. music bloggers). James Mercer is all that remains of the original band. Then again he wrote all the songs. The fact that Mercer chose to completely revamp (politispeak for shit-can) the band is moot at this point. A new, more-than-capable staff … err, band backs Mercer on Port of Morrow. What’s missing, however, is the mystique the Shins unintentionally employed on those early releases. Their dark indie rock has turned sunny pop, made even brighter by a little Danger Mouse residue and producer Greg Kurstin. But for all the Technicolor production, most of the songs come off more sepia toned. “No Way Down” sounds VH1-tested, and “Bait and Switch” would definitely be mother-approved. Mercer and Co. do hit the mark on the spare “September” and first single “Simple Song,” which are Shins songs no matter who’s playing on them. And although you might be able to close your eyes and pretend it’s The Shins, you will never mistake it for being 2003. Port of Morrow is essentially a Mercer solo album. Why not call it as such?