Tag Archive | "The Shins"

Sixteen of the Best Songs of 2016

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Sixteen of the Best Songs of 2016

Posted on 29 December 2016 by Dorian

We recently published our Top 20 Albums of 2016, but this only reflected a section of the amazing songs that came out this year.  There were great albums we missed, albums that just missed out and songs that came out on single this year. So, as a bit of an end of year bonus, here are the best songs of 2016 that didn’t feature in our end of year album list.

16. ESP Ohio – Royal Cyclopean

It wouldn’t be Neon Filler without a Robert Pollard track, and this horn driven gem from his latest collaboration with Doug Gillard is one of his best this year.

15. The Wedding Present – Rachel

There are rumours that this year’s Wedding Present album may be there last, if that is the case then they are finishing on something of a high.

14. Childish Bambino – Me and Your Mama

Donald Glover is a successful comic actor, the face of the young Lando Calrissian and a Grammy award-winning singer, sickeningly talented.

13. The Shins – Dead Alive

The Shins releasing a song that sounds like they could have recorded 15 years ago may not seem that exciting, unless you think early Shins is about as good as music gets. Which I do.

12. Allo Darlin’ – Hymn on the 45

Allo Darlin’ sadly called in at day in 2016, but just as they played their final shows they released one last single. A final document, if nothing else, of why they’ll be missed.

11. Car Seat Headrest – Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales

Car Seat Headrest is the work of Will Toledo, this year’s bespectacled indie geek de jour. The album justifies the hype this time around.

10. The Avalanches – Subways

The new Avalanches album may not be much of a step forward given the huge gap between this and their debut recording, but there were enough good songs to make it worth a listen.

9. Parquet Courts – Human Performance

The New York band have been releasing consistently great music since they broke through with Light Up Gold in 2012. The title track from their latest album shows them in almost subdued mode.

8. Angel Olsen – Shut Up and Kiss Me

2016 was a bit of a breakthrough year for Angel Olsen, her 4th LP getting a lot of attention and radio play. This track showcases as much fuzz-pop as folk and is a bit of a break from the softer country vibe she’s associated with.

7. Case/Lang/Veirs – Best Kept Secret

Three of the best vocalists in country-pop come together and, unsurprisingly, the results are great.

6. Okkervil River – Judy on the Street

Every two or three years Will Sheff’s band release an album and they all range from good to excellent. This track from Away is no exception to the rule.

5. Teenage Fanclub – Thin Air

More than a quarter if a century in and Teenage Fanclub can still produce some of the best melodic guitar pop around.

4. Girl Ray – Trouble

One of the best bands that we saw at Indietracks this year and one of the bands to watch out for in 2017.

3. Field Music – Disappointed

Due to its release at a busy time we sadly didn’t get round to reviewing Field Music’s excellent 2016 album Commontime. We still loved it though and can assure you it was a typically excellent release from the Brewis brothers. This was a single and one of the best tracks.

2. Luke Haines – Smash The System

Smash The System saw Haines revisit some of his previous themes, with a number of nods to his Baader Meinhof album. The Monkees references in this song are confusing but welcome.

1. Eyelids – Slow It Goes

Eyelids didn’t have a new album out in 2016, that is coming next year, but they did release this song and showcased what we can look forward to. Excellent video as well.

Compiled by Dorian Rogers


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The Shins – Port Of Morrow

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The Shins – Port Of Morrow

Posted on 28 March 2012 by Dorian

Writing (or more accurately procrastinating about) this review has taken an unusually long time, and I’m not a quick writer at the best of times. Something about the process was particularly difficult with regards to Port Of Morrow, the forth album by James Mercer’s The Shins. Partly the problem was due to the weight of expectation, I love everything the band has recorded (and regret not including Chutes Too Narrow in our all time top 100 list) and this record is their first for five years. This lack of objective perspective made me worry that my responses would be as a result of a desire to love the album rather than the merits of the album itself.

The Shins - Port of Morrow

Putting off writing the review made things worse as it meant that I got to read a number of other reviews whilst still preparing to write this one, and most of those reviews were pretty luke warm. This made me doubt my judgement even more, I was enjoying the record but maybe it was a bit of a dud and my judgement was flawed?

The breakthrough came (and I apologise for the rather meandering nature of this review) whilst I was running over the south downs during a beautifully sunny early evening. In isolation, with the album playing on my MP3 player, I found myself able to hear the songs on their own merits for the first time and came to the conclusion that this is a rather wonderful album.

The album was recorded with a revolving cast of players, including a couple of contributions from the now discarded original Shins Dave Hernandez and Marty Crandal, and some slick production from Mercer and Greg Kurstin. The album is like a selection box from Mercer’s career with different tracks representing different records from his back catalogue. The opening track ‘The Rifle’s Spiral’ has the production style of his Danger Mouse collaboration Broken Bells, and is as good as anything from that record. Lead single ‘Simple Song’ carries on where Wincing The Night Away left off, and is the kind of big sophisticated pop tune Mercer is so adept at writing.

Other nods to the past are ‘September’, a soft acoustic number that could easily have been left over from the Chutes Too Narrow sessions and ‘Bait and Switch’ taking us all the way back to Oh, Inverted World. However, these songs don’t feel like retreads, at only four Shins albums in 11 years Mercer has hardly stretched the Shins sound. It also doesn’t mean that Mercer isn’t moving forward with this album, the big glossy pop sheen in the production and the generally warmer tones make this a different kind of Shins album.

‘No Way Down’ is just a great piece of glossy pop, all hooks and warm vocals. It is exactly the kind of song that would to make the Radio 2 playlist, but the only one that would finish with a lyrical couplet like “Apologies to the sick and the young, get used to the dust in your lungs”. There have been some criticisms of Mercer’s lyrics on the album, his general happiness with life and warm outlook has been sneered at by the cynical indie critics. I find the generally upbeat and content tone quite refreshing, and if anything Mercer’s lyrics sound better a little more grounded and less arch than before.

‘Fall of ’82’ is like a lost track from the year of its title, bringing to mind Billy Joel, Hall and Oates and Supertramp. One of the reasons that this shameless homage to MOR works so well is that it sounds honest, it sounds like Mercer loves the music of his youth, it is a romantic song and not tinged with the smug irony of the guilty pleasures brigade. And the lack of irony makes the romantic ballads like ‘Taken For A Fool’ work pretty perfectly as well.

The lack of a solid band, and a range of styles, does mean that the album feels a little bit incoherent, and the slick sheen of production isn’t going to be to everybody’s taste. However, this is an album that has been getting regular play on Radio 1, radio 2 and 6 Music, and there aren’t many albums that can appeal so well to all three of those demographics. I can’t see myself finding many albums this year that I’ll enjoy as much as this one, it is still Spring but I think I have found my feel good record for the Summer.


By Dorian Rogers


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Broken Bells – Broken Bells

Posted on 21 September 2010 by Joe

Broken Bells is the self-titled debut by the collaboration of Shins’ frontman James Mercer and producer de jour Dangermouse, AKA Brian Burton. It was one of the albums that we had picked to watch out for in 2010 and it doesn’t disappoint.

Listeners uncomfortable with hearing James Mercer’s tunes aligned to a barrage of bleeps and beats are going to be disappointed, but  to me that is missing the point of the album. Dangermouse is a fan of classic pop and this album is his opportunity to make music with one of the great melody makers of the present day.

Opening track and lead single ‘The High Road’ kicks things off beautifully and is a sign of the good things to come. By the time you’ve listened to ‘Vaporise’ and Mercer’s surprisingly good falsetto on ‘The Ghost Inside’ you know that Burton and Mercer have produced something pretty good. On first listen I liked it but wasn’t 100% sure I loved it. However, it quickly became the album that I wanted to go back to the most over the coming week. Each listen cemented it in my mind and draw out some subtle qualities.

If the album does have a flaw it is that it is a little one paced and laconic. However, that is also one of the album’s great strengths. It is the sort of album that you want to sit down and listen to from start to finish, and then start all over again.

The album is fairly short, and may lack the substance that some people will be looking for in an album by two of the best respected names in modern music. It is, however, a focused album where the quality never drops. Both Mercer and Burton have indicated that they see Broken Bells as an ongoing project and on the strength of their debut that can only be a good thing.

It is the kind of album that doesn’t blow you away first time, but given a little bit of time it is apparent that something pretty special has been produced.  No fan of sophisticated pop music will be disappointed.


By Dorian Rogers, Mar 2010


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