The Shins are an indie band formed in 1996 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They released Port of Morrow, their fourth full length LP in 2012. After receiving much publicity from two songs from their debut album, ‘Oh, Inverted World’ (‘Caring is Creepy’ and ‘New Slang’) appearing on the soundtrack to the 2004 film Garden State, their fan base has been ever growing and leading them to play the world over.
Port of Morrow is one of those few albums that really has a little bit of everything, even in the first three tracks alone. It’s opening track ‘The Rifle’s Spiral‘ straight away hits you with the sound of synth pop and an upbeat tone. With the synth leading the track, it leaves the vocals and guitar playing an interesting part in the composition of the song where they sound somewhat distorted and quieter than many other components of the song. However this upbeat tone contrasts with the dark nature of the lyrics.
The second track ‘Simple Song‘ may sound familiar to some as it was used (very fittingly) to close out the the How I Met Your Mother season 8 finale. Beginning with the vocal crescendo before bringing in the guitars and bass then vocals and drums. It has a classic stage by stage build up to the song. Again carrying a very upbeat and optimistic tone but much harder hitting than the previous track and swapping the synth track for a piano that brings up the chorus. This fits with the simple narrative of the lyrics of the feeling of being alone and someone coming to the rescue.
The third track ‘It’s Only Life‘ is much more slow in tempo and with a more solemn beat. Swapping the the rhythm electric guitar for acoustic really comes into effect in this track giving it that deep and meaningful tone. The lyrical narrative of the song does bear similarities to the previous track in theme, most notably through the start of the chorus “I’ve been down the very road you’re walking now, It doesn’t have to be so dark and lonesome, It takes a while but we can figure this thing out, And turn it back around”. Though this song goes a bit deeper in the sense that the lyrics are addressed to someone who is having trouble being themselves and instead following a crowd.
The album continues to feature songs that have an upbeat romantic or helping a friend in need theme such as ‘September‘ and ‘Fall of ’82‘. But also it features songs with heavier themes such as ‘No Way Down‘ (featured in The Amazing Spider-Man soundtrack, again very fittingly) which is about people living in a world blissfully unaware of all the problems that surround us.
Overall the album dips has a largely positive and upbeat tone, regardless if it follows the context that the lyrics are sung in or not. Definitely an album to listen to in order to raise someone’s spirits.