Port of Morrow
Five years after the moody Wincing the Night Away and two releases by his Broken Bells project, James Mercer returns to the Shins energized and with his songwriting prowess intact.
Mercer invited a cast of characters both new (Janet Weiss, production wiz Greg Kurstin, singer/songwriter Nik Freitas) and old (Modest Mouse's Joe Plummer, Fruit Bats' Eric D. Johnson, on-and-off supporting players Marty Crandall and Dave Hernandez) to realize his ornate pop-rock creations. All contributions are felt-- you don't need liner notes to tell how many people worked on this thing-- but none more so than Kurstin's. His multi-instrumental arrangements and behind-the-boards know-how are what make Port of Morrow one of 2012's best-sounding records thus far. Every element here is tricked out for maximum emotional effect-- experience total power-pop pleasure overload from "Simple Song"'s acrobatic pile of guitars, get the chills from the drifting sea breeze-echo of "September", and wrap yourself in "For a Fool"'s string-laden lushness. Needless to say, these songs would sound great on Natalie Portman's humongous headphones.