There's a story in this week's (Mar. 26) issue of The New Yorker called "Pretty Simple;" in which the magazine's resident pop music critic Sasha Frere-Jones spells out his thoughts on the Shins, from 2001's Oh, Inverted World to this year's Port of Morrow. Frere-Jones is clearly a fan of James Mercer's songwriting but has some critiques about the frontman's less-than-thrilling live performance stature. He does have high words of praise for the band's current guitarist, Reverb's and my good friend Jessica Dobson:
A live show at (Le) Poisson Rouge, several days before the appearance on "Saturday Night Live," only confirmed that Mercer should find a bigger and stranger way to put across what he hears in his head. Allegedly a secret show, thought it was broadcast live on NPR, the evening was a strange dance between a loving audience and a slippery object of affection. The band was greeted rapturously by the audience but the mood kept flattening out, song after song, once the thrill of recognizing the first few bars faded. Mercer's role as front man feels more like maintenance than performance, and most of the showmanship came from the new guitarist, Jessica Dobson. Not only was she dressed more formally than her bandmates but she was the only musician who rose about the songs, creating several fantastic moments of ballooning, wavy distortion.Get it, girl.