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We’ve always found comfort in the kindly embrace of the familiar. It’s friendly and reassuring. The Shins know this better than most, having spent their career as the indie rock torchbearers of humanity.

Blessed with an ability to create gold-spun songs lovingly wrapped in James Mercer’s imploring vocal, they’ve naturally worn a pop aesthetic more effortlessly than most, and honeyed by Mercer’s voice and pretty, lovelorn poetry, fragility and warmth have never been The Shins’ problem. Diversifying their sound, though, has. Although ‘Wincing the Night Away’ was a worthy attempt at broadening their universal appeal beyond the cosiness of cornfield melodies, it never felt like it struck the rich, personal chords of ‘Chutes Too Narrow’. But buoyed by the immediate perfection of opener ‘Rifles Spiral’, ‘Port of Morrow’ fondly reminds us of this band’s inherent ability to create modest beauty from the gleefully simple.

Where they tried to manufacture added depth and texture, here there’s a freedom and fluency on the Morrissey panache of ‘No Way Down’; a ready gorgeousness on ‘40 Mark Strasse’; and a knowing nod to THAT song on the drifting ‘September’. Importantly, this is not ‘Chutes Too Narrow’ revisited or ‘Oh, Inverted World’ revitalised; it’s merely a slight return made all the more lovely for it imperfections, and The Shins a band to treasure more than ever.

By Reef Younis

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