Very occasionally a eureka music moment comes along. It cannot be overstating it to say that this happened to me about a 6 weeks ago. I was listening to Steve Lamacq on 6 music when he played a new single from a forthcoming album by The Shins. My music radar twitched furiously as I heard ‘Simple Song’ for the first time. I was blown away by the song. It took a further couple of listens on 6 music for me to discover and then remember who the artist was and what the song was called. The tune though had already wormed its way into my consciousness. It was the nearest thing a perfect song. It has a strong melody and fantastic harmonies with a powerful guitar riff. The songwriting is faultless and intelligent.
I watched the accompanying video on You Tube (which is brilliant BTW). Various members of my family very soon became as hooked with the song as I was. I checked out the back catalogue of the Shins and was equally delighted with much of that. It has been said that the group merely acts as a vehicle for the songwriting mastery of James Mercer. Indeed the present group bears no resemblance to the group when it first started out in 1996 other than Mercer. The album ‘Port of Morrow’ was officially released this week (20th March) on Aural Apothecary James Mercers own label (part of Colombia records). The opening song ‘Rifle Spiral’ links the new album back to elements of their last album in 2007 ‘Wincing the Night Away’. The lyrics are dark and and evocative. Simple Song follows but I have already extolled the wonderment of that!
‘Its Only Life’ is a slower, more wistful tune reminiscent of Neil Finn at his best.
Track 4 ‘Bait and Switch’ has an almost twitchy quality but is fast becoming addictive.
‘September’ again slows down the pace and has wonderful slide guitar and well crafted harmonies on the chorus. ‘For A Fool’ is a great honest track with fantastic guitar sounds harking back to 60’s Fleetwood Mac and even Shadows. The background organ sound is wonderful.
‘Fall of 82’ reminds me kind of Squeeze but there is a 70’s feel to the chorus.
’40 Mark Strasse’ is another slower song with fantastic observational lyrics. Yet again the chorus soars with wonderful harmonies and a ‘big’ sound. The album concludes with the title track ‘Port Of Morrow’. This is a very interesting bluesy conclusion to the album with unusual chord progressions and vocal track.
This album is not formulaic in its content. Each song stands on its own. It is a really fine piece of music. I urge you to go and buy it now. Yet again, I stumble onto a group that many will already know but now I have found them I have become a devotee.
I have already written about Dodgy before (Free Peace Treat – 27/10/11). This post was a few weeks after I had the privilege to have seen them live at the Duchess in York. They performed the entirety their new forthcoming album ‘Stand Upright In A Cool Place’. This was an unexpected pleasure which left me waiting expectantly for its release. The album was released exactly a month before the Shins on the 20th February.
This is the first studio album for several years following a hiatus of Dodgyness. It has a different feel to those albums of the past but is so unmistakably Dodgy. The harmonies are superb, the songs are really well written and constructed. ‘Tripped and Fell’ the opening track is a fabulous opener setting up the rest of the album. ‘What Became Of You’ is a melancholy but very fine track. It has a feel of early Moody Blues mixed with a bit of Camel at their best. This might sound a bit weird but both of these bands could really pull it off when they want to.
‘We Try’ is a great track that could indeed be a lost George Harrison number off ‘Dark Horse’ or even ‘All Things Must Pass’. The more you listen to this album, you think this is brilliant! ‘Shadows’ has similar Harrison qualities. ‘Did It Have To Be This Way’ is an absolutely beautiful song( I rarely describe songs as such). The harmonies are wonderful, ethereal but the guitar intro is sublime in its simplicity. ‘Waiting For The Sun’ is another melancholy song but this is not to run it down at all. ‘Raggedstone Hill’ leaves me wishing I could write songs like this with its folky acoustic intro moving into a rockier mood. I particularly remember ‘Only A Heartbeat’ from the gig as it has a Beatles quality from the Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane era. ‘Find A Place’ yet again opens with a great acoustic sound played on what sounds like classical guitar and is gentle in its feel. ‘Back Of You’ is very much like parts of ‘Homegrown’ or ‘Free Peace Sweet’. ‘Happy Ending’ has interesting rhythm changes, complex harmonies and some great guitar fills.
This is a great return from Dodgy. I will be at their instore gig at Jumbo records in Leeds on 21st April, to support a band with real class and congratulate them on a fantastic album. I know I draw comparisons from some big hitting artists but Dodgy deserve the credit for pulling out an album that will have you listening again and again. Just need a follow up now guys.
Go out and buy Port Of Morrow by The Shins with Stand Upright In A Cool Place by Dodgy. It will be the best purchases you could choose this year. Only wish I could afford the £93 for a day ticket to see The Shins at Leedsfest!