It's been five years since The Shins' last album, Wincing the Night Away, completed a remarkable run for the band by introducing darker, new-wave leanings to its evolving sound. That gold-selling record cemented The Shins' standing as a critical and commercial force — not bad for an act that began as a one-man bedroom recording project.
But in the years since, there hasn't been much to report on the musical side from the band some said would change your life. Not that things weren't busy. Singer James Mercer spent the time developing a new collaboration alongside Danger Mouse as Broken Bells, while also acting in Matt McCormick's Some Days Are Better Than Others and becoming the father of two young daughters. But now comes a gigantic flurry of activity for The Shins: A new album, Port of Morrow, comes out March 20 on a new label, with Mercer backed by an entirely new lineup (Jessica Dobson, Richard Swift, Yuuki Matthews and Joe Plummer).
Mercer recently welcomed Oregon Public Broadcasting into his studio space, a former carriage house turned rustic recording enclave located next to his home in Southeast Portland. There, he caught us up on his life and work, described the circumstances surrounding the changes to The Shins' lineup, and played a couple of songs from the new record (as well as a take on his band's best-known single).
Look for The Shins to tour extensively this year, with stops at Coachella, Sasquatch and Bonnaroo. And, of course, the band will perform highlights from the record in a live webcast on NPR Music, from Le Poisson Rouge in New York City, on Wednesday, March 7.