Haven’t done a Mashup Monday in a hot minute, but the time has come, my friends! Back on my grind, and in need of some good party tunes, so why not turn to mashups, naw mean? Hit the jump for a whole list of the best mashups I could get my hands on.
1. Nate Belasco – Black Skinhead x Elephant (Kanye West x Tame Impala)
2. Ricky Cervantes – Forever This Young (Avicii & Aloe Blacc x The Knocks x TheFatRat)
3. DJ BAHLER – Summer Luv (The Knife x Ashanti x Fat Joe)
In many ways, James Mercer did the polite thing in waiting five long years to release The Shins’ fourth album, Port of Morrow.
He gave you time to play the living Christ out of “New Slang,” assuming you hadn’t already (it’s never going to get old). He let you re-absorb Chutes Too Narrow once you realized that Wincing the Night Away’s spectacular singles couldn’t match the former’s spirited cohesion. If that wasn’t enough, he handed the remaining original band members the pink slip — or perhaps the pink guitar pick or whatever pink object translates to “You’re Fired” in the Bizness — and replaced them with four random instrumentalists who flat-out resemble the type of people you’d expect to play in a band called “The Shins.”
In theory, Mercer gave you every opportunity to forget The Shins, just so Port of Morrow could serve as a re-introduction. Fittingly, after such a long layoff (aside from projects like Broken Bells), he jumps right in with the catchy, quirky “The Rifle’s Spiral,” a rather Shinsy approach to the tune of Arcade Fire’s “Ready to Start.” Once you get going, though, there is very little about this album that should surprise you. Despite premium production and a few extra layers that have since joined the group, the album chugs along the heels of Mercer’s wistful, genre-defining voice. It also incorporates something quite rare for a Shins offering: Choruses. Lots of clearly defined choruses, in fact.
Take the excellent lead single “Simple Song.” The song’s most charming moments are in the chorus, when Mercer’s pipes burst into a pitch so high and smile-inducing that the lyrics couldn’t possibly be anything but “I know that things can really get rough when you go it alone/Don’t go thinking you’ve gotta be tough and play like a stone.” It’s Mercer’s current crisis and cure, put whimsically but concretely into layman’s terms. It’s also quite the surprisingly uplifting spout, contingent with many others among The Shins’ catalogue.
Moving along, the opening seconds of third track “It’s Only Life” eerily resemble “What if God Was One of Us?” to the point that I literally lip-synced Joan Osborne in my car without even realizing it. However, as is the case with many songs here, Mercer’s reassuring chorus saves the day and boosts what could have been a corny spiel about ‘liiiiife’ into a satisfying break from the action. That said, we get right back to business with “Bait and Switch,” a gleeful and identifiable tale about a straight edge who can’t seem to keep pace with the wild girl he’s with. [Insert obvious Belle & Sebastian reference.]
Now, I’ve got to tell you, there are three songs from this album — one of which being “Simple Song” — that I can see myself taking with me for a long time, so I’d like to get to them, if you don’t mind. And that’s not taking anything away from pure pop gem “No Way Down,” slow-burner “For a Fool,” classic rock throwback “Fall of ‘82” or album closer and title track “Port of Morrow,” which we’ll actually revisit later. But I can’t let you stop reading without realizing just how wonderful I consider “September” and “40 Mark Strasse” to be. They’re just goddamn beautiful tracks — each in a unique way — and that’s not a descriptor I remember using with The Shins before. “40 Mark’s” chorus melts into a harmony so soothing that you forget that Mercer’s meanwhile talking about the life of a war-era German prostitute. As for “September,” well, you’ll just have to listen for yourself. It’s as Shinsesque as they come, but there’s a warm sort of spin on it — either from the “wheeeeeews” or from Mercer’s newfound take on sweet, sweet love — that I think eventually will make it fairly irresistible.
We conclude with the title track, the mysterious “Port of Morrow”, which might as well be any Radiohead song’s weird second cousin. Lying beneath Mercer’s dark, twisted falsetto is a rather enormous statement about life, death and the afterlife. (“A preacher on a stage like a buzzard cries/Out a warning of phony sorrow, he’s trying to get a rise”). He even directly addresses us with “dear listeners” and says that despite the curls on his daughters’ heads, there’s only a skull beneath. And that’s how the album ends. It ends with that line. That’s the parting message, people, that despite all of the bountiful love and adventure that precedes the final track, everything’s ultimately dark, gray and going to die.
I can’t possibly compete with such a final, resounding statement, but I’ll leave you with this: Port of Morrow is a winner on most accounts, and where it succeeds it also fails. This is now Mercer’s project and his alone. After a decade, one man can only spawn so much creativity and at times the album tends to wander back to familiar places that you may not have exactly adored in the first place or approach depths that you really wish it hadn’t. But the trick is to lose the context, to lose the idea that the Shins peaked when they first peeked and to enjoy the songs on this album and this album alone. Put it all in the right perspective and I have a feeling you’ll remember how dazzling and utterly refreshing an outing with The Shins can be.
Album Rating: 8.2/10
As single songs from The Shins’ new album are being heard by the public ear (and this one is a radio rip), I think all fans of The Shins are rejoicing in finding that their favorite band hasn’t lost their charm. This song is no different than the last two (Simple Song and September)…it’s full, it’s classic James Mercer, and it’s catchy. I cannot wait for this full album to be released. It’s an automatic buy for me.
More new Shins! Good stuff. I posted “Simple Song,” their first single off of Port of Morrow, their new full-length release set to drop on March 20th, and now we have a stream of the b-side of Simple Song, titled “September.”
I actually like this one a lot more than Simple Song–it has much more of a Shins feel to it, in my opinion. The guitar is almost a little twangy, which is interesting.
James Mercer’s voice sounds as on point as always…I can’t wait for Port of Morrow, I think it will be really interesting to see how their band has grown in the past few years.
This one took me by surprise when I saw it tweeted out by Confusion over at Pigeons and Planes. I was immediately excited; I haven’t heard new music from James Mercer and the Shins in longer than I can remember, other than Mercer’s work with Dangermouse on Broken Bells. It’s been five years since the last Shins project, and any new Shins music is really exciting for me. Port of Morrow, their new album, is set to release on March 20th on Mercer’s imprint label. I’ve been a Shins fan since their first album, Oh, Inverted World, and songs like A Comet Appears, Caring is Creepy, Australia, and Sleeping Lessons remind me distinctly of memories throughout my life. Music always has an interesting ability to stir up old memories, of people and places remembered or forgotten, in a way that almost no other art can.
We Will Become Silhouettes, a cover of Ben Gibbard’s Postal Service’s song of the same name, reminds me of driving around my hometown when I first got my driver’s license–makes me miss early fall in Chicago. This one’s a little more “Know Your Onion!” than “New Slang,” which can sound a little annoying if you’re not in the right mood, but Mercer’s still got it and I dig the straightforwardness of the song, aptly titled “Simple Song.” The fast guitar riff that plays at times throughout the song is pretty awesome, kind of showy in a Queen-esque manner. I can’t stop wanting to compare the Shins to this millennium’s answer to Yes–does anybody else see that?
I stumbled across RAC right as I was putting on my PJs. Me-oh-my. As much as I want to go to bed, I gotta share this first. Andre Allen Anjos is the man behind RAC — I originally described him as a mashup artist, but that’s definitely not what he is. Nothing here seems mashed up. I’d say he’s something of a reinterpreter, taking songs we know and love and giving them a new feel. I definitely don’t love all of his songs, but some of them are really really worth checking out. See more songs from him at his website.
Throwback Thursdays?? WHAT?
Before I get to that, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Patrick, and this is my first ever post here at Sunset! Super excited. I’ve been following this blog regularly for almost two years, and it’s meant a lot to me. Daily injections of incredible music, like a warm gun in the arm. Bang bang, shoot shoot. Sunset’s always felt like my secret internet oasis, and so for the longest time I refused to tell people about it (I was bad, I know). But I’m way over that. Discovering and sharing music keeps my soul happy, afloat, and pleasantly humming, so I hope to share lots of it with you all in the coming future. It’s totally strange and totally awesome to be writing for Sunset after all this time, but lets give it a go—
So Throwback Thursdays, what’s that all about? Well, I’m not sure either, but it’s going to be the shit. Hopefully. I’m envisioning it as the (conceptual) love-child of Straight Talk Sundays and, err, Womp-Womp Wednesdays. Music posting incorporated into a little more talk, discussion, and story-telling; some meatier posts for those of you with bigger appetites. And as a throwback themed daily special, the music I post won’t necessarily be the freshest off the griddle, but I’ll always try to keep it just as hot. For today’s post, I want to throw you guys back into my own history of music discovery. Everyone’s got a story about how they got listening to what they do, a story about how all those damn gigs of music got into the iTunes library, and why some have a million plays and why some have none. Music has a way of powerfully tying itself to life’s ups and downs; here’s how some of the songs and bands that mean most to me got entangled with my life.
So the other day, my mom asked me who Bob Marley was. *Cringe.* Thank the gods, my dad has always been far more musically literate, at least when it comes to the music of his day. I grew up an oldies boy, listening to whatever he did. I was born and raised in Houston — and if you know anything about that city, it’s that you don’t walk anywhere. Too far, too hot, too humid. You drive, and it was driving with my dad where I first introduced to music. Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, America, CSNY, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and on and on and on. I was hopelessly hopelessly oblivious to any of the music people my age were listening too, almost until the end of middle school. All of my music I scavenged from my parents’ cd collection, save for one (amazing) Outkast cd given to me as a gift from a family friend. Oh how foretelling that cd would be. But the 60s and 70s were my shit back then. It was all I knew, and all I was listening too. It’s almost impossible to pick a song to capture that time for me, but here is (quite literally) the first song to come to mind. It’s a live (1967) song by Simon & Garfunkel called A Poem on the Underground, the “poem” referring to the word “Fuck” scrawled on a subway wall. Brilliant. It’s a beautiful song that I think really demonstrates how Simon & Garfunkel themselves were truly poets — just listen to those lyrics. More than that, the harmony between their voices is surreal. You forget they’re both singing at the same time.
I’d describe myself as a late musical bloomer. As great as all those oldies were, someone really needed to sit me down, slap my face, and open my eyes to the brave new world of music that was out there. If anyone deserves credit for getting that first crack in, it’s my older brother. We went to the same school until he graduated, and again, driving in the car did the trick — blasting Weezer on the way, I’ll never forget it. Weezer is fucking awesome, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This one’s for him, “The Good Life.”
For the longest time, all my music came through the bro. He was like a human music blog, relaying the good stuff for me. He introduced me to Radiohead, Coldplay, The Shins, Smashing Pumpkins, Belle & Sebastian, and tons others that I refuse to admit that I didn’t find by myself. Perhaps most momentous, he introduced me to Ratatat. It felt like what I imagine a dog thinks after tasting human food for the first time. “You’ve had THAT all along, and you never told me?! WTF.” Maybe it was my narrow horizons, but that sound was completely new for me, and I couldn’t get enough it. Loud Pipes, Wildcat, Seventeen Years, Gettysburg. Incredible. The song I want to post though is my favorite Ratatat song to date — Cherry, off their first (self-titled) album. It’s one of their mellower songs, but it’s got a little something about it that resonates with me every time. There’s that one drop that feels like the entire song is building up to. I’ve heard it hundreds of times, but that one part gets me every single time I listen. Turn up your speakers and bass, dim the lights, and let it play.
MP3: “Cherry” – Ratatat
While you’re in that mood, take a listen to this Shins song off their last album, “Sleeping Lessons” (song, not album). You hear that melodic up and down thing that opens and stays with the song? Isn’t that awesome?
Around this same time, somewhere in high school, I found my first music blog. Correction: my brother found my first music blog. -sigh-. It’s now defunct, but I was discovering music left and right. Sondre Lerche, G. Love, Of Montreal, The Black Keys. Ratatat’s Remix albums came out and I nearly crapped myself. I met Jack Johnson and Feist for the first time, and I fell in love. But actually! I met a girl in England doing a study abroad program, and we became mad about each other. Turns out she went to a boarding school in Durham, and this was right around the time I was looking at colleges. I convinced my parents that I was super interested in Duke, and to let me visit alone because I had a friend I knew there. It worked, and lets just say I never set foot on Duke’s campus (no offense to Lydia, of course!). My dad worked for an airline then, and had the hookup with plane tickets. We ended up dating for a long time (my first girlfriend!), and she also took me to my first concert ever in Asheville, a Feist concert. Feist was incredible, and opening for her was an unknown band (at least to me) who after the concert stood in the hallway peddling signed copies of their cd: Grizzly Bear. We all have those songs that we use to torture ourselves when we’re feeling sad or when we miss someone, and this was mine for her — Brandy Alexander, by Feist.
Stay tuned for a continuation of this story next week, when hip-hop finds its way into my life…
Thanks to so many devoted fans, friends, family members, and the like, I was chosen to be a writer for Austin City Limits this year. I was asked to preview 3 of the bands who will be playing at the Festival (October 8-10), and this is the first one that I am releasing.
Imagine sitting on the moon looking out at the orbiting planets, flickering stars, and infinite galaxies. Close your eyes and imagine the sounds you might hear.
If I had to describe my imaginations, I’d say that I see movement, hear echoes, feel the endless possibilities, and absorb infinite amounts of energy through osmosis. Funny thing is, I feel the same emotions when I hear the warm voice of James Mercer paired with the progressive musical patterns of Brian Burton. Mysterious, timeless, knowing no boundaries.
If you’ve yet to be graced with their talents, let me introduce you to Broken Bells. James Mercer, frontman from The Shins, and Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse, teamed up to form a band that immediately caught people’s attention, a band known for its lyrical density and mastery of the alternative rock genre. Personally, I couldn’t ask for a more unlikely pairing – which, in itself, just happens to be my favorite aspect of Broken Bells. When I think of James Mercer and The Shins, I automatically think of the Garden State soundtrack. Not even in my wildest dreams would I make the connection to Danger Mouse, the producer who created The Grey Album (a mashup of The Beatles and Jay-Z), a Gorillaz album, a Beck album, and is a member of Gnarls Barkley. But after meeting at a music festival in 2004 and taking a liking to one another’s music, Mercer and Burton started talking, and, much to the rest of the world’s benefit, released an album titled Broken Bells six years later.
In an age where collaborations and blended genres seem to be luring in listeners left and right, Mercer and Burton were not an inch shy of genius when they decided to pair up. What makes the music so intriguing is the fact that it merges Burton’s expertise in hip hop, electronica, and funk with Mercer’s ability to soothe the tympanic muscles with his voice that, in my opinion, belongs in the modern-day indie-rock Hall of Fame.
When the two artists merge into Broken Bells, they create a world of music with mystical and enigmatic qualities. It is impossible to get bored while listening to the album, because each song adds a whole new dimension to the repertoire. James Mercer’s voice is the one constant factor that ignites a sense of familiarity with each song you hear. Otherwise, some songs, such as “Mongrel Heart,” are haunting and dark, while others, like “Citizen,” sound much lighter, more reminiscent of The Shins’ music. “The High Road,” arguably the most well-known track, opens the album with a bang – it’s memorable, it’s got a splash of pop to it, it’s got a beat will get anybody’s head nodding, and its lyrics are poignant and deep.
I am sad to say that I have yet to see Broken Bells perform live. I hear their shows are absolutely incredible – the combination of a mind-blowing backdrop that is rumored to be a visual masterpiece, a talented live band, a gradual build-up of energy as the night progresses, and the heart-melting beauty of two powers combining make for an unforgettable performance. Luckily, Broken Bells are set to perform at this year’s Austin City Limits Festival on Friday, October 8th! In the meantime, I highly recommend you dive head-first into the 10-track album, Broken Bells. When you find yourself transported to the moon watching the planets orbit around you, you just might come back to thank me.