Rock has many artists who retain a consistent sound across projects. the shins ’ James Mercer is one, and the sound of his fifth album under that moniker retains all that’s good about The Shins, only slightly infused with tricks learnt from side projects like Broken Bells.
As the only remaining original member, perhaps it’s unsurprising. But what startles is the way the tracks contain the same sort of charm and warmth evident on 2001’s Oh, Inverted World. Mercer wrote the entire album, from the clomp of ‘Painting a Hole’ to the Christmastime Spector feel of Fantasy Island. He also took on production duties from Richard Swift.
Despite being a male-heavy record, ‘Name for You’, the lead single, is billed as a call to arms for Mercer’s three daughters, another reason for……the gap between records, perhaps.
The strongest feeling is one of looking back. There are tales of school days, of learning guitar and Mildenhall is even named after the UK airbase he was raised in. Melancholy levels are high – but that’s a distraction, as beneath this motif is a wealth of songwriting nous that continues to set Mercer apart