WHEN I sat down with all four members of the Shins around the time their Chutes Too Narrow album came out, I was already a big fan of the band's gentle, indirect songs and slightly obscure production that made their music sound like it had been recovered from a '60s bootleg.
I was also struck, that afternoon at the Authentic Cafe near Fairfax and Beverly, how strong and natural the camaraderie between the band members was. That day I was sure, that a) they'd stick with this lineup, more or less, as long as they lasted, and b) that good as they were, they were about as big as they'd ever be.
So much for my powers of prediction. The Shins have now followed fellow Portlanders The Decemberists into the major-label bigtime: Their new record, Port of Morrow, is a big hit on Columbia Records. And singer James Mercer, who I recall as a bit shy and very sweet and literary has, after his work with Danger Mouse on Broken Bells, broken up the Shins and reassembled it around his own leadership.
HERE is my piece on the band, which has continued to make good music through all the changes.
Mercer, by the way, told me he spent much of his life indoors playing the Smiths and other British bands.
"There's a certain weird melancholy to the melodies that I've always enjoyed," he says of English music. "I read in John Keats or someone, one of the romantic poets, that long ago they believed that the gall bladder created melancholy -- and that only the British had that organ."
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