Sparkling Music for a Dishwater World: The Shins & the Limitations of the Indie Rock Narrative

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In March, Columbia Records launched one of its major albums of 2012, the Shins’s Port of Morrow. In the five years that had elapsed since the last full-length Shins release, the band, which became one of rock’s standard bearers with three terrific albums for Sub Pop Records between 2001 and 2007, underwent significant changes. Although two original Shins appear briefly on Port of Morrow, band founder, songwriter, and leader James Mercer remains the only permanent member. In addition to the new line-up, Port of Morrow is the first Shins album distributed by a major label. Mercer and the revamped band have generated extraordinary interest in the record, participating in a Columbia engineered program of multimedia promotion that has included live performance broadcasts (including a full hour on The Late Show with David Letterman), a nationwide tour, appearances at major festivals in the United States and Europe, consumer…

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