Top-Five Albums of 2012: #3 The Shin's "Port of Morrow"

Yes, I'm one of the many that had no idea who The Shins were until I saw Zach Braff's Garden State. But regardless of how you feel about the film as a whole, he got Natalie Portman's line right when she says, "This band will change your life." Ever since, I've nabbed up each of their new albums, and each one has lived up to their past offerings--if not bettered them. So, despite having James Mercer's side project of Broken Bells to tide me over, I've been eagerly awaiting a new album from this band. Usually, the more excited I get for something to be released, the more I build up my expectations, which ultimately leads to my disappointment with the final product. However, "Port of Morrow" didn't disappoint.

Right from the opening track of "The Rifle's Spiral," I knew I was in safe hands. The simple way it builds the drum beat and layers on the rest of the song, it is one of the best opening tracks for any album this year. Plus, it sets you up for what's to follow. While this is still The Shins you know and love, it's easy to hear that there's a bit more polish--and a bit more pop--leaking through. This, to me, shows even more with the second track of "Simple Song." And as it often tends to be for me, even though it's the main single off the album, it's one of my least favorites. I still like the song, don't get me wrong, but there are so many better tracks. (It's songs like this that make me wonder how much control an artist or band has when choosing their singles.)

Much as "Port of Morrow's" upbeat tracks are good, it's the more downtempo tracks that are the most enjoyable. From "40 Mark Strasse" to "It's Only Life" to the title track, these are the songs that tend to carry the more "haunting" tones that The Shins use as a signature. (The title of their song, "Caring is Creepy" is one of the more fitting ones, as I think there is an unease to much of their music, but that's what tends to make it so interesting.)

Honestly, the worst part about the album is its length. At ten tracks, it doesn't last nearly as long as one might want, but they've always been a band that seems to live by the "quality over quantity" rule. It never feels like any of their songs are fillers, those nonsense or forgettable tracks that almost every band has one or two of on a disc.

And even though the entire album is worth your time and money, these tracks in particular help make the album shine:

  • "The Rifle's Spiral"
  • "It's Only Life"
  • "Bait and Switch"
  • "For a Fool"
  • "40 Mark Strasse"
There you have it, more than half the album is nothing short of fantastic--a way better ratio than most. So, if you're a fan of The Shins, I don't know why you don't already own this, but you should. And if you're new to them, this is a good enough place to start, as long as you keep in mind that their older work becomes more "raw" the earlier it gets. But it's equally good. The Shins, man, they really will change your life.

The Glitch Mob is, yes, categorized as dubstep. (Personally, I still don't see how dubstep is a separate entity from techno as a whole. It's simply another branch like Jungle or Trance or Drum and Bass... But I'll leave that argument for the purists.) Still, the beats and rhythms this band creates are all sorts of amazing. And they're probably a bit more accessible than some of the other dubstep-ers, since they tend to be a little less distorted and glitchy--in spite of their name. The best place to start is "Between Two Points," since it actually has a singer and lyrics. If you like the beats in that song, you'll probably like the rest of their tunes, too. It's a perfect blend of chillaxing and just enough of a danceable beat that it makes you want to move.