The Shins – Port Of Morrow

(Aural Apothecary/Columbia)

THE SHINS play the Molson Amphitheatre August 4. See listing. Rating: NNN

Since the last Shins album came out five years ago, main man James Mercer has primarily kept busy with Broken Bells, his electronic music collaboration with Danger Mouse. But the time away from traditional songwriting hasn’t dulled his skills, and his voice sounds better than ever.

The Portland-based band’s eclectic fourth album showcases Mercer’s bright and inventive AM-radio-pop songwriting and a sonically ambitious production style courtesy of Mercer and co-producer Greg Kurstin. The guest list includes Wild Flag’s Janet Weiss, singer/songwriter Nik Freitas, Modest Mouse’s Joe Plummer and several on-and-off supporting Shins players.

Ultimately, though, aside from Fall Of ’82, Simple Song and No Way Dawn, it lacks the memorable melodies and exhilarated energy we’ve come to expect from the Shins. A few languid, wistful tunes add balance but don’t always captivate. It’s an interesting listen but doesn’t leave a strong impression.

Top track: Simple Song

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