With D.C. weather finally settling into warmer temperatures, it could mean only one thing: The Sweetlife Food and Music Festival. Before The Shins hit the festival’s stage on April 28, fans will get a chance to listen to the  band’s new songs with the release of its first album since 2007.

With Port of Morrow, The Shins have developed a new sound that is rooted in their indie alt-rock heritage, but features much more electronic instrumentation and sounds overall much more polished and radio-friendly.

The album’s first track, “The Rifle’s Spiral,” starts it off with a pulsing — nay, groovy — bass line and throbbing drums. This is followed by “Simple Song,” the first single, which features front man James Mercer’s vocals that lend a light and dreamy feel to an otherwise anthemic song. This is the perfect summer concert song or, alternatively, something you will hear in Urban Outfitters. Disappointingly, things generally go downhill from here, as the songs all start to sound very similar. Not to say that the songs aren’t good, but for most of the album, the band’s new sound comes off as formulaic and contrived.

Amidst some lush synths, familiar-sounding melodies, tons of reverb and a rock-pop sound that merges nearly all the songs into a sea of indistinguishable sound, there are still shining moments.

The standout track, “No Way Down,” has a melody that will become stuck in your head and retains the sound that made The Shins’ music great in the first place. The song is simultaneously bubbly, driven by propelling and relentless drumming, and chill, making this track perfect for any road trip playlist. The title track is also a great song, not necessarily because of the music itself, but because of Mercer’s fantastic vocals; sounding uncharacteristically sexy and dangerous, he croons in his signature falsetto. Mercer’s lyrics are still cryptic, but who cares when the front man’s voice can sound that smooth?

Also, it baffles me that “Pariah King” is on the B-Side of Port of Morrow when it obviously packs much more of a punch than much of the mediocre filler on the A-Side. It starts mellow and slowly crescendos into a powerful anthem that is usually the territory of bands such as Muse and Foo Fighters.

All in all, Port of Morrow still sounds like The Shins, albeit with a more poppy spin. Hardcore fans may be disappointed, but the tradeoff is probably a much larger and diversified audience that The Shins are ultimately aiming for with this release.

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