The optimists will say this is The Shins’ coming of age album, a sign of their maturity and strength of song writing. The pessimists will say this is The Shins’ attempt to win awards (their version of Eskimo Joe’s Black Fingernails, Red Wine) a sceptical plan to write songs similar to those which are currently popular. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I believe The Shins have grown in maturity and have attempted to show this in their songwriting. I also believe that their have been impacted quite a bit by the trends of what is currently musically popular.
The Shins: Port Of Morrow
Unfortunately, for me, the bottom line is that whilst their attempts at maturity are admirable, they are not the best at this genre. If I wanted some more mature semi-folk indie rock I would listen to the efforts of someone like The Hold Steady or Dawes. The pity is that The Shins are, or at least are very close to being, the best at making buoyant sunny indie pop rock. Their strength lies in their ability to discuss a range of issues in an upbeat way. There are signs of potential on this album for their longer term maturity in songwriting and I hope they keep experimenting with this element of their work. Their error, I believe, on this album is that they didn’t dip their toes into these efforts, but rather jumped whole body into the rushing mainstream river of mature indie folk rock. The majority of this album should have been made up of tracks like …. that evoke their earlier brilliance in “Know Your Onion“, “So Says I“, “Australia“, “Turn on Me“, “Saint Simon” and “Fighting in A Sack.“
The problem that any analysis of this album that calls it The Shins’ ‘mature album’ refuses to acknowledge the mature concepts covered by the songs on their previous albums. Dealing with everything from capitalist/communist economic systems, to fear of the future and even insomnia, The Shins are hardly immature in their song content, despite this label many critics are attempting to apply to their new album.
It therefore stands to reason that those people who call this The Shins’ “mature album’ are only referring to the music itself rather than the lyrical content and I would venture that these proponents didn’t like their previous albums’ sound. They are therefore rejoicing that the band has now brought out a range of songs that reflect the current music trends rather than their previous musical qualities.
The loss of keyboardist Marty Crandall and drummer Jesse Sandoval has clearly had a marked impact on this record.