Indie-rock favorites The Shins are back with a new album, a new lineup and a more upbeat sound that lead singer-songwriter James Mercer credits in part to his tranquil family life.
The band's fourth album, "Port of Morrow," is set for release March 20 in the U.S. It comes five years after The Shins' Grammy-nominated album "Wincing the Night Away" entered the Billboard 200 at No. 2.
Mercer admits he'd love to snag the top spot this time.
"I mean that will never go away," the 41-year-old Portland, Oregon, native said. "A number one record. You're up there with the biggest bands in history. It's just cool you know?"
Between albums, Mercer parted ways with the other original band members _ drummer Jesse Sandoval, keyboardist Marty Crandall and bassist Dave Hernandez _ and recruited a new team.
"Port of Morrow" was produced by Greg Kurstin, who also has worked with Kylie Minogue and Lily Allen. Although Crandall and Hernandez guest on "Port of Morrow," they won't be touring with their former frontman, who defends the new lineup.
"It's not that these musicians are better _ it's that when you work with somebody new you get a whole new perspective on your song," Mercer says. "I want to be free to work with a number of people. I just think the songs benefit from it, and that's the most important thing to me."
Mercer married former journalist Marisa Kula in Hawaii in 2006, after she interviewed him for pop music magazine, "Spin." The pair have two young daughters, Sabine and Odette, who directly affected his writing on "Port of Morrow."
The jubilant tone of lead single "Simple Song," for instance, is miles away from some of the more downbeat offerings on "Wincing the Night Away," a collection of songs written after the band shot to fame thanks partly to their 2001 song "New Slang" being featured in the movie "Garden State."
As the band took off, Mercer found his "social situation was upended," providing good fuel for "Wincing." With the new album, however, "There's a lot of just thinking about love," Mercer says.
"Having children is something that makes you think about the importance of love and relationships between humans and it also at the same time, the opposite of that _ the wars and violence become very poignant and distressing, too."