THE SHINS > Wincing The Night Away

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The Shins are too easy.  Top notch, right-brain, rock-pop fun.  Clutch reference of the hipster wannabe, scapegoat for the jaded art student, and go-to soundtrack selection for the multitasking moviemaker.  All this understood, and overstated in most music circles, understand this: their new album Wincing The Night Away will be their most difficult acceptance by the aforementioned focus group.Label: SUBPOP
[Rating: 3.5]

The Shins are too easy.  Top notch, right-brain, rock-pop fun.  Clutch reference of the hipster wannabe, scapegoat for the jaded art student, and go-to soundtrack selection for the multitasking moviemaker.  All this understood, and overstated in most music circles, understand this: their new album Wincing The Night Away will be their most difficult acceptance by the aforementioned focus group.

2001’s Sub-Pop debut, Oh, Inverted World, was welcomed into the indie kingdom with its weird but sticky songwriting, simple but quirky song structures.  The gradual wave begun by Inverted reached a new level with 2003’s Chutes Too Narrow, as front-man James Mercer’s Brian Wilson styled vocals continued to surf the same wave of endless hooks and abstract lyrics, further backed by the band’s elevated song-crafting and bolder production.  Fresh pop at its best, basically Chutes did it, and The Shins were it.

Expanding on their previous efforts-10 song, three-minute melodic TV dinners-The Shins have stretched their sound on Wincing. Most noticeable are the hip-hop stomps, strings, and searing guitars of “Sea Legs”; the psychedelic piano tweaks in “Red Rabbits”; and a dirty windshield-groove over keyboards on the opener “Sleeping Lessons,” all in the four to five minute range.

WTNA’s shining moment is the lilting, textbook Shins number, “Phantom Limb.”  Although sweet on the outside with an undeniable tootsie pop chorus, the song’s serious subject matter fictionalizes the difficulties of a same-sex couple in a small town high school.  Wincing has a sneaky strength, that doesn’t arrive on your doorstep and immediately stick to your CD player or i-machine as its predecessors. With this upcoming release, some may argue that the indie wave has broken over this quartet from Albuquerque, NM.  But to hate The Shins is like hating a joke you don’t get…it’s too easy.

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