It's been five years since the last Shins album, 2007's all too aptly titled Wincing the Night Away. During that time, bandleader James Mercer teamed up with Danger Mouse for the moderately interesting middle-of-the-road electronica project Broken Bells and essentially broke up the Shins, working with an entirely new team of musicians on the new Port of Morrow, including producer Greg Kurstin. So it's a pleasant surprise that the new Shins can hold their own quite nicely, thank you, with such early efforts as the album Oh, Inverted World (2001) that got actress Natalie Portman so hot and bothered in Zach Braff's Garden State, and Chutes Too Narrow (2003). The lead single "Simple Song" is a particularly satisfying slice of near-power pop. Throughout the record, Mercer and Kurstin mess with the trademark Shins confessional, shimmery approach ever so slightly, adding electronic cushioning and lush strings (and a trumpet solo on "Fall of '82") while playing to Mercer's strengths as a melodically gifted songwriter. Well-matched and not to be missed are the openers, Real Estate, originally from Ridgewood, N.J.
He's the guy who helped shape the early careers of artists from Elvis Costello to the Pretenders as house producer at London's famed Stiff Records. Yet when it came to Nick Lowe's own prolific recording career - going back to the early 1970s with pub-rockers Brinsley Schwarz - this ultra-talented multi-instrumentalist seemed to fly just under the radar of stardom. But the kudos kept on coming, record after record. From Lowe's new-wave leanings of the late '70s to his more recent roots-rock/country efforts (including last year's much-acclaimed CD The Old Magic), his wickedly clever wordplay and keen musicality have never faltered. Touring with his longtime band - keyboardist Geraint Watkins, drummer Robert Trehern, guitarist Johnny Scott, and bassist Matt Radford - Lowe will dish out several decades' worth of his songs, including some made famous by others such as "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" and "I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll"). North Carolina singer Tift Merritt opens.