It's spacious with affected vocals and electronic instruments interspersed with acoustic or traditional instruments. That's a very basic description for an album that's very, very difficult to describe. Most mash-ups of electronic and traditional music drive me bonkersauce, but there's a lack of pretension here. It's not ironic in any way, and there's none of the fuzzed out beach-sound that's gotten so infuriatingly popular in modern indie music lately. The treated nature of the vocals and some of the instruments contrasts perfectly with the organic percussion or guitars.
The album opens with 'Yay', and the title is a good descriptor of the song, with slow-swinging, echoey bass drums, electronic organ, and eventually bass guitar topped with frenetic closed-cymbals, sticks, and rimshots led by a cycling but heavily chopped and staccato treated vocals. It's a great introduction to what you've got in store for you in this album, although it's a lot simpler than many of the other songs.
I have to admit, I was really looking forward to this album. "Wincing the Night Away" was in my CD player (remember those?) for months--"Phantom Limb," "Girl Sailor," "Turn On Me"...there was something about the album that was simultaneously new, yet tapped into 50 years of R&R history.
Having listened to "Port of Morrow" a couple of times, I'm immediate struck by how, unlike earlier albums, all the rough edges have been sanded away, which is great from an easy listening point of view. Nothing to offend, nothing especially harsh (well, except for the falsetto on the title song). It's the sort of album that I imagine improves with repeated listenings.
However, unlike previous albums I don't hear the sort of band interplay that makes a great album. No terrific guitar parts, no sense that there was any input from other musicians. Like the whole thing sprung from Mercer's head complete and every part was crafted under his dictatorial command. Which is great as far as that goes, since Mercer is inventive and imaginative. Just not imaginative enough in my book when compared to the other albums. I don't have the sense that this is an album that will be on my heavy rotation list.
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