Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Shins Album -- My "Snap" Review

I am a long-time fan of indie music darlings "The Shins." So, today is a big day -- the band's first new album in 5 years ("Port of Morrow") just launched today. And, surprise, surprise, it is actually available for streaming on Rhapsody on day 1 (a nice state of affairs, given recent albums that were MIA for a number of months, such as Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto). That means I can listen now. And I am.

Here I sit at the airport -- awaiting my flight -- and listening via my earbuds. A great opportunity for my first "snap review." What does that mean? It means my gut reaction to -- snap judgment of -- each song after listening for at most 60 seconds -- kind of like an American Idol for each song. Think of me as your personal musical Malcolm Gladwell who gives out his "Blink" reaction. So, here goes -- enjoy (or not):

Track 1 -- "The Rifle's Spiral" -- up-tempo, logical start to the album, very Shins-like -- consistent with their sound; nothing groundbreaking, but energetic and likable -- so far, so good;

Track 2 -- "Simple Song" -- this one has been on the radio for a while -- it is their first single -- and it is an instant classic; love this song; love the energy; love the drums; just try stopping yourself from playing air drums while you listen (even when you are driving); my kids crack up every time I do that (even though I am endangering them!);

Track 3 -- "It's Only Life" -- okay, James Mercer is slowing things down ... a lot; a rather "conventional" song for The Shins; but a nice melody; this sounds more Neil Finn than James Mercer and The Shins; but I like it -- nice change of pace; mellow gold; he played this on SNL and it sounded good there too, even though it certainly is not an arena rocker!

Track 4 -- "Bait and Switch" -- another typical peppy "Shins-like" song, which sounds like an out-take from their last album, "Wincing the Night Away"; not a throw-away, but the first song that sounds like "filler";

Track 5 -- "September" -- just James Mercer with a guitar; another mellow track; this one is tough to gauge, but since I must stay true to my 60 second limit, I need to give a verdict -- so, here it goes -- thumbs up, but only slightly;

Track 6 -- "No Way Down" -- back to up-tempo; again, certainly not a classic -- but it is pleasant enough -- an average track; I will not skip it when I listen more closely, but I certainly doubt I will press "repeat";

Track 7 -- "For a Fool" -- back to slowing things down -- simple spare melody, but let's face it, James Mercer has a unique voice and "take" on things -- it rubs me the right way, especially the way he has with his words;

Track 8 -- "Fall of '82" -- with a name like that, is this song James Mercer's answer to Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69"? Let's find out. Kind of sounds good at the start -- but, then begins to lose me ... don't get this one; certainly won't do the same for James M as that "other song" did for Mr. Adams;

Track 9 -- "40 Mark Strasse" -- my first question here to Mr. Mercer is, "what happened at that street address?" Okay, back to the song itself -- mid-tempo, spare -- okay ... I mean, it is okay; certainly doesn't grab me, and I don't really understand the lyric "are you really going to let these Americans put a dent in your life?" Not being jingoistic -- I simply don't get it ....

Track 10 -- "Port of Morrow" -- here is the album's name-sake, so it must be a classic, right? Well, the beginning is not promising ... let's give it a few more seconds ... hmm, just disconnected from my airport wifi, so needed to reconnect ... am back at it ... listening anew (a bit counter to my 60 second rule); I still don't like the beginning of the song though -- but, then Mercer gives his unique slow-jazz with reverb -- overall, it kinda' works.

So, there it is -- and here is my Snap Review Summary:

10 tracks
1 stand-out track -- only 1 ("Simple Song")
5 more tracks worthy of "The Shins" name
3 "eh" tracks (meaning, you know, "eh" -- as you shrug your shoulders and move on)
1 throw-away

What does that mean? My snap -- wholly unfair 60-second judgment for the full album -- is 3 stars out of 5 for this one.

All in all -- disappointing. After hearing "Simple Song" for weeks on the radio, I was hoping for so much more ....