The Shins definitely ran the risk of finding their style dated and copied since their last album five years ago. Or since their indie hit album Chutes Too Narrow four years before that. Or even since their debut way back in 2001. It has been eleven years since Oh, Inverted World, but rather than adapting to survive, The Shins have built a style for themselves that has so far proved timeless. As they sing on their new album, Port of Morrow, “a creature of habit has no real protection,” but maybe they don’t need any. The new release is not breaking news for the frontier of musical originality, but it still sounds fantastic even in the landscape of music in 2012.
With “Rifle’s Spiral” The Shins have created another of their more upbeat hits, complete with a sing-along chorus and tongue-twister title. It is also a great example of the sophisticated sectional composition of their songs; they manage to keep you eager for the chorus, but successfully avoid unnatural transitions back to the verse. The simple instrumentation can be deceiving, but listen for the chorus outros. The chorus is never followed by the same thing twice and few lyrics are ever repeated. The result is lyrical intrigue built on a growing familiarity with the tune even on a first listen. Maybe it is subtle details like these that keep them sounding so fresh even when a song like “Rifle’s Spiral” could have been from any of their albums.
“Simple Song” has been released as a single off Port of Morror, and “It’s Only Life” is due to follow, but “Bait and Switch” is a more fun track with a full display of The Shins’ strengths. The hazy breakdowns rival the guitar solos for the best part of “Bait and Switch”, and hearing James Mercer’s vocals slightly strained for the chorus is a only slightly less interesting than the engaging lyrics. It is truly a great spring cruising song.
Enjoy “Rifle’s Spiral” and “Bait and Switch” below, but note that the album is uniformly enjoyable, even much more so than their last release. Grab the whole album and grab your eleven most played songs for the next week.
The Shins – Rifle’s Spiral (download)
The Shins – Bait and Switch (download)