Port of Morrow

[Aural Apothecary]

Following the Shins’ 2007 album Wincing the Night Away, leader James Mercer stretched in new directions—collaborating with Danger Mouse in Broken Bells, doing soundtracks and even trying a little acting. He’s come back home on Port of Morrow, the Shins’ fourth record, and his wistful pop sensibility remains very much intact. Perhaps the biggest difference here is the immediacy of his lyrics, which are far more direct than on earlier albums. He turns philosophical on the gently bobbing “It’s Only Life” and muses about love on “September,” a low-key love song for Mercer’s wife that gets accented with understated percussion. “Simple Song” is the thread connecting Port of Morrow with its predecessors, thanks to a triumphant hook that leaves space for piano and, in the background, roiling guitar. It’s only one highlight on a welcome return from one of indie-pop’s true craftsmen. –Eric R. Danton

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