Monday, April 16th, 2012
It's Only Life
Review of The Shins’ Port Of Morrow and giveaway
Annie BeedyI’d like to, if I could, refer you back to my writeup of The Shins on the occasion of their visit to Toronto last September. In it, I mused about how this band had a Forrest Gump-like knack for getting pulled into conversations bigger than themselves and how all of that seemed out of scale with James Mercer’s desire to simply write pop songs. That hasn’t necessarily subsided as some of the pieces I’ve read surrounding last month’s release of Port Of Morrow were built around the very questionable thesis that The Shins are already a reunion or nostalgia act (four albums over eleven years is hardly a snail’s pace these days, people).
Having already gotten that end of things out of my system with the aforementioned live review, I’m going to try and just talk about Port Of Morrow in the context of being a new Shins record, and nothing else. And it’s actually not too difficult to do because even with all that’s happened between this record and 2007’s Wincing The Night Away – namely the sacking of the band and shelving the whole thing in favour of Broken Bells – Port makes it feel like nothing has transpired and no time has elapsed.
The sonic aesthetic seems a bit shinier than before, more distinctly in line with ’70s studio pop but still following the path laid out by the albums that came before. Mercer’s distinctive, reedy voice manages to keep up – sometimes barely – with the looping melodies he writes for his cryptically evocative lyrics, accompanied by some ratio of jangly guitars to moody synths. The songwriting is also as solid as before, peaking with lead single “Simple Song” – it easily belongs on any post-career best-of compilation – and while it doesn’t again reach those heights, there’s an admirable lack of filler across the other nine tracks. It seems that it really doesn’t matter who’s along for the ride with James Mercer, The Shins remain as The Shins ever were. It’s funny that a band that was sold to so many as being life-changing should find their greatest strength in their constancy.
The Shins premiered their new video for “The Rifle’s Spiral” on the Nintendo DS platform last week, because they’re cool/annoying like that – it should be available for those of us without portable video game systems this week. They open up for The Black Keys at The Molson Amphitheatre on August 4.
Also, courtesy of With A Bullet, I have several copies of Port Of Morrow to give away – one on LP and three on CD. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want The Shins” in the subject line and your full name and mailing address in the body, and indicate if you’d like to be eligible for the vinyl, digital or both. Contest is only open to residents of Canada – sorry, rest of the world – and closes at midnight, April 29. Update: The prizing has been upgraded to four LPs; if you’re CD-only, sorry, can no longer oblige. Maybe buy a turntable?
I still have fond memories of seeing The Shins for the first time back in Summer 2002 – just before this blog came into existence – at The Rivoli in Toronto, opening up for Los Angeles’ psychedelic-country outfit Beachwood Sparks. The Shins would eventually go on to great things while the Sparks went on hiatus shortly afterwards… a hiatus that is now over. Pitchfork reports the reconvened band will return with their third album The Tarnished Gold on June 26. One of the new tracks and a couple of old ones are posted below.
tUnE-yArDs has released a new video from WHOKILL, featuring some face that may be familiar if you’ve seen the old videos from WHOKILL. There’s also interviews with Merril Garbus at OC Weekly and The Santa Barbara Independent; she plays The Phoenix on August 1.
Video: tUnE-yArDs – “My Country”
Video: Lambchop – “2B2”
NPR welcomes Perfume Genius to WFUV for a radio session featuring a new song. There’s also features at The Georgia Straight and Dazed, and the second part of the interview between Michael Stipe and Mike Hadreas is now up at East Village Boys.
Rolling Stone caught up with Annie Clark of St. Vincent to talk about her next album – a collaboration with David Byrne that should be out in the Fall. Pitchfork also points out that her entire Coachella set is available to watch online and a new song which appears on her Record Store Day 7″ makes its live premiere and scorches.
Video: St. Vincent @ Coachella 2012
You have the Toronto Jazz Festival to thank for bringing Janelle Monáe back to Toronto for the first time since CMW 2011; she’ll be playing the outdoor stage at Nathan Phillips Square on June 22, and hopefully you can find a spot to watch from the unticketed area because admission is a rather dear $62.50.
Video: Janelle Monáe – “Tightrope”
Also in town for the Jazz Festival is Nellie McKay, whose boycott of Canada in protest of the seal hunts is apparently over. She’ll be at The Horseshoe on June 30, tickets $20 in advance.
Video: Nellie McKay – “Real Life”
San Francisco electronic artist Tycho is back in town on July 10 for a date at The Hoxton.
And Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – perhaps you’ve heard of them – have finally added a Toronto date for their Wrecking Ball tour. They’ll be at The Rogers Centre on August 24 with tickets going on sale April 20; no pricing as yet but you can bet it won’t be cheap and that it’ll still be worth it. They’ve also released a new video from Wrecking Ball recorded at the Moody Theater show at SXSW in March. If you look really closely, you can see me in the stands! Okay, no you can’t. Update: Tickets are $35 and $115. Nicely done, Bruce.