Tag: James Mercer
I’ve been flipping back and forth a lot about whether I should think James Mercer is a total dick for firing everyone who was once The Shins and just making a whole new band out of it. I mean I totally think Billy Corgan is an asshole for that same reason, so I feel like I should try to keep my band-morality ducks in a row, ya know? But then I realized that Mercer is just a wicked introverted cat – always kind of sad and lonesome – and that’s why he is able to write such amazing music. And after this new video for “It’s Only Life”, I’ve decided to hang up all my preconceptions of how the man lives his life and just fucking rock his tunes. Hell, I live in Portland just like he does and I’m well aware of how the drabness can enter your soul if you’re not on top of your game.
Port of Morrow initially seemed too simple for me, even by Mercer’s reductionist pop standards, but lately I’ve been finding myself emotionally owned by its simplicity. The lyrics to “It’s Only Life” make depressing circumstances sound beautiful, and like all of the album it’s draped in a calming tone of acceptance. He’s really able to reach back to that early 20th century vibe when sad songs were what you sang to feel better. He’s kinda like the 21st century’s version of Robert Hunter in the Pacific Northwest. The video itself takes place in a post-apocalyptic PDX, and basically combines the kid from Where the Wild Things Are with the monster-vibe from The Village and imagery directly stolen from this past January’s Cloud Nothings video for “No Future/No Past.” I mean there’s no possible way director Hiro Murai didn’t get at least a little inspired by it. Regardless of that slight artistic stealing though, this video for “It’s Only Life” has my vote for video of the year. It’s tough to make a complete, let alone inspiring story line in under 5 minutes with no dialogue but they totally pull it off. Suck it November Rain…
Get it? They don’t fuck with the kid because he put the antlers on him and his dog – smart thinking, and a killer way to add some past and extension to the story. Totally makes me a little teary-eyed. Yes, I am a pussy. But here, now watch the 5 month old Cloud Nothings video and tell me there isn’t a striking similarity. I do love this video too, and if you haven’t yet gotten into the magical world of Cleveland kid Dylan Baldi, then you’re missing out on the greatest collaboration ever of punk meets post-punk. The latest Cloud Nothings album, Attack on Memory, is at the top of my 2012 list.
2) Phantom Limb
3) It’s Only Life
4) Simple Song
5) New Slang
Ahh, the perks of being hip and unemployed in Portland, Oregon. Announced this afternoon only an hour before show time – the small confines of Mississippi Studio left little space for breathing room, but that didn’t stop half the PDX crowd from deciding that 2 in the afternoon on a Monday would be a great time for a beer or two. With a pile of ex-bandmates getting larger with every new album it’s safe to say these days that James Mercer is The Shins. Thus when seeing him play solo, it felt like the purest way to experience Shins’ tunes and surprisingly gave new depth to these songs.
The 5-song set opened with 2 tunes off the last album, 2007’s Wincing the Night Away. As essential as the reverb of an electric guitar seems to be to this music, the raw, acoustic guitar allowed them to open them up even more into their naturally intended environment. The lyrics made more sense, the space felt more necessary, and there was a simple way to lose oneself in the moment without focusing on a reclusive indie-star playing 10 blocks away from your home with the sun shining through the windows. Next were 2 tunes off the upcoming Port of Morrow. “It’s Only Life” came off as both a rather basic tune for Mercer to write, and as a somewhat dark window into the embraced loneliness he appears to project. I’m interested to hear how this one will sound with the full band, but I did have a moment here of noting my perceived pretentious meter for James Mercer fall a few notches into normal human being territory. The newest single, “Simple Song” followed and James himself seemed ironically amused at how simple the two-chord chorus came across in the solo format. After some charming commentary, he closed out the set with an awesomely beautiful take on “New Slang” from the Garden State soundtrack, then gracefully thanked the crowd. It wasn’t a mind-blowing half-hour of music, but it was great, and it was refreshing, and probably the best live set I’ve ever witnessed in-between loads of laundry.
Here’s a cut someone just posted of “It’s Only Life” from today, as well as “Simple Song” in its fully realized version off the upcoming new album.
Gotta say, I was fairly stoked when I heard Danger Mouse was gonna make some new music with James Mercer in Broken Bells. It’s definitely the calabo that Danger should be riding with. I mean cool, “Crazy” blew the fuck up, but have some musical integrity and stay the hell away from CeeLo Green and the Gnarls Barkely crap. That’s essentially the one project in the Mouse’s career that doesn’t agree well with me – especially when he’s making such dope shit with other people. Here’s the middle of my review and the link to my full article at State of Mind: