Port Of Morrow

Posted in Music on July 16th, 2012 by Tom

I had really, really high expectations of this album based on the strength of its harbinger, ‘Simple Song‘, not to mention the unequivocal (musical) success that was Wincing the Night Away. I submit as evidence:

The triumphant guitar riff, elemental piano backing, and Mercer’s iconic vocals make this song the complete package, and leaves you wanting more.

‘Simple Song’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Mercer’s time away on the Broken Bells project, highly thought of around here, was seemingly time well spent, right?

I’m not sure. Ten listens in, and I’m still not quite set what I think of the album. Working backwards, there’s the eery and out-of-place title track, some AM sounding songs with numbers in them (40 Mark Strasse, Fall of ’82), and a real slow jam that is mostly just slow (Taken For a Fool).

Things aren’t all bad, though. ‘No Way Down’ has a fun bass line as well as the lyric “lost in an oscillating phase,” which is pretty cool even at face value, and a catchy chorus.

‘September’ is the best slow track on the album, hands down. Subdued and acoustic, it still demands your attention, and in the grander scheme, makes a lot of sense as a pacing element among songs like ‘No Way Down’ or ‘Simple Song’.

‘Bait and Switch’ is another upbeat jaunt with some clever guitar runs and the classic Mercer lyric, “I’m just a simple man / cursed with an honest heart.” It’s preceded by ‘It’s Only Life’ which I maintain is a bit trite and not that interesting of a tune.

So now we find ourselves back at the beginning of the record. The purpose of this ass-backwards review structure is to save the absolute best for last, and that’s the opening track, ‘The Rifle’s Spiral‘.

‘The Rifle’s Spiral’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I suppose I like this song the best because it bears the strongest resemblance to my favorite material on Wincing The Night Away and Broken Bells. Solid beats and space-age melodies structured into a three-and-a-half-minute mini epic of a song. And also, for the love of god, if you haven’t seen the video, by all means:

The evocative, Burton-esque short film is a match for ‘The Rifle’s Spiral’ every bit as unlikely as it is perfect.

So, where does that leave us? The album starts of with two flawless tracks, and slowly deviates from there. If you like your LPs with a wide range of more experimental tracks, then by all means, Port of Morrow is what you seek.

I prefer a more focused collection of tracks, and I really only got half of what I wanted. Even still, the high points are on par with any previous output of Mercer’s, so I remain content with the work, if not as blown away as I’d hoped to be.

The Shins – Port Of Morrow


The Amazing Spider-Man

Posted in Music on July 11th, 2012 by Tom

This past weekend I saw The Amazing Spider-Man, which was a lot of fun to watch. Most reviews harped pretty hard on the ‘too soon!’ aspect of this film dancing on the grave of the Sam Raimi – Tobey Maguire – Kirsten Dunst trilogy that kicked off the wall-crawler’s film presence in 2002.

And I guess that’s fair. As much as Spider-Man 3 deserved the bad reviews it got the first two films were really fantastic, and Spider-Man 2 stands as one of the defining films of my adolescence (for good or ill). So is it too soon? I suppose, but nonetheless I enjoyed the new film.

It had a lot more humor than I recall from the past series, and Andrew Garfield is a bit more wiry, making him more visually akin to a spider, compared with Maguire’s more muscular frame. Plus, as much as I liked the web-shooting as an biological mechanism, I did enjoy a return to the mechanical explanation (which I remembered from the animated Spider-Man!).

I bring all of this up because I heard two familiar songs in the film. It actually opens with one of the better tracks off of the brand-new Shins recrod Port Of Morrow.

‘No Way Down’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I don’t know that the song has any real bearing on the story other than serving as an upbeat backing to the introductory high school scenes, but it fit well.

The other was a far more surprising inclusion. Fading in just as Peter and Gwen starting making a little headway on getting together, we hear the opening strums of Coldplay’s ‘Kingdom Come‘.

‘Kingdom Come’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I thought it was weird that this segued into the obligatory “Peter Parker learns to use his powers scene,” because the song is much more a touchy-feely tune about being in love with somebody. It was unconventional, but I was so happy to hear the song at all that I found myself on board with it.

‘Kingdom Come’ was the hidden track at the end of 2005’s X&Y, Coldplay’s most underrated effort that laid the groundwork for the epic success of Viva La Lida. In my mind it’s one of the cleanest, most earnest coda’s to a album I’ve ever heard, not to mention just a really touching track in its own right.

I was glad to hear it in The Amazing Spider-Man, and to know that it wasn’t just me who really dug it!

At the end of the day though, if we’re going to put together a ‘greatest songs in the Spider-Man movies’, it’s really no contest. At the end of the day,

…how can any song ever compete with that? Huh?!

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