Starry-Eyed; Of Little Surprise. The Shins, Port of Morrow.

Prior to washing up here in the Port of Morrow, The Shins' fourth studio full-length and first to be named after Boardman, Oregon's port authority frontman James Mercer found himself at the forefront of many a musical endeavour. From catching the imagination tail of Danger Mouse and ringing them Broken Bells, to teaming up with Isaac Brock of nominally, similarly murine fame to soundtrack Chris Malloy's 180ยบ South and furthermore engraving himself into the silver screen itself in Matt McCormick's Some Days Are Better Than Others, it remains rather safe to say that Mercer's been slacking off the day job for all too long. And, for the most part, Port of Morrow substantiates such pining for the reunion of his sylvan croon with the lackadaisical stylings of his newly reshuffled backing band.

Featuring members of Crystal Skulls and Brock's resident Modest Mouse there's little questioning the adroitness of Mercer's right-hand men and women although Port of Morrow is, incontrovertibly, an exercise in egotism constructed of blithe self-centrality. A solitary, momentary gander at the band's URL affirms the actuality of such forthright allegation although you know what? If there's anyone willing to contest that Mercer hasn't afforded himself such luxury I'll happily don bib, take up sharpened cutlery, and trundle down the nearest 5★L to guzzle all unblemished linen.

And so what of Port of Morrow musically? Well, aside from the inescapable, objective verity that self-explanatorily straightforward lead single Simple Song sounds discouragingly redolent of Surfer Blood's Swim To Reach The End bellowing and that Bait And Switch comes across as overly excitable Chutes Too Narrow castoff, it's a robust collection. September is plumped up with the wide-eyed wonder of any inaugural excursion down the cinema; The Rifle's Spiral shoots at a voracious urgency and incontestably scores; and the dilated pupil dawdle of the title track is purely hypnotic, like a comatose Connan Mockasin falling freely through Zappa-esque hallucination. Few moments approach the plaintive, patent desolation within Wincing The Night Away yet arguably, fewer records still ever have and what's more, No Way Down sees Mercer change tune to one that's rather joyous and consequently unsettling in an altogether contradictory manner. As he himself chimes: "a tiny few are having all of the fun" and in amongst lyrical twists and turns regarding the construction of sightly sepulchres, it would appear that Mercer can here, quite astonishingly, be incorporated in such cheerful company. He continues to write his own reviews in the proceeding For A Fool as although far from a "terrible song" (indeed it's just about akin to Robbie Williams' best balladry), its emotive hi-fi built of Beach House sway lodges itself firmly in lasting memory. A record too hi-fi for even the most bombastic of boomboxes, as Mercer rhetorically questions of allowing Americans to put "another dent in your life" on the tame, Wild Western trundle of standout 40 Mark Strasse, Port of Morrow proves another indentation worth inflicting on your existence.