Initial Reactions: The Shins, Chairlift, Andrew Bird

Initial Reactions are just that: my reactions to records after only a few listens (usually 2 or 3). I try to be fair, but if a record doesn’t make much of an initial impression on me, someone’s going to need to tell me to pay closer attention if they think it deserves better. (see the sidebar for rating descriptions)

The Shins – Port of Morrow [B+]: James Mercer is looking for a fresh start with this one, the chance to embark on voyages heretofore unknown with a new crew. While promising, his refitted outfit is less scrappy. Where Chutes and Wincing both sounded ready to spiral out of orbit into pop hyperspace, there’s a definite restraint here. The wild-eyed vision seems to have taken a backseat to professionalism. Also, first half strong, second meh. ("Simple Song", "Bait and Switch")

Chairlift – Something [B]: As much as I like Chairlift’s synth-pop sound, it ultimately underwhelms. The songs are packed so dense that they can barely breathe. There’s a punkish vigor here, but a more restraint in instrumentation would go a long way. The result is a record that is frequently interesting and beautiful, but never quite glorious. Girl can sing though… ("I Belong In Your Arms", "Cool As A Fire")

Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself [B]: I feel like a heel awarding anything less than an ‘A’ to a talent like Andrew Bird. Break It Yourself, however, lacks for memorable songs. Sure, 8 of the 12 tracks would qualify as excellent, but nothing about this record culls my subconscious into a return. So God-given ability is one thing, but in my defense, would anyone rate a Joe Satriani album as "great" just because he can shred? I rest my case. ("Give It Away", "Hole in the Ocean Floor")