The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
Record Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: January 23, 2007
Something strange happened between the last two releases for The Shins: They got huge. After Natalie Portman said those magical words on the indie hit Garden State, the Albuquerque, New Mexico, quartet’s world was definitely inverted. The small name drop helped The Shins first two albums – 2001’s Oh, Inverted World and 2003’s Chutes Too Narrow – eclipse the million sales mark worldwide. Now four years since their last release, The Shins have aimed even higher with their third album on Sub Pop, Wincing The Night Away. The media views The Shins as this year’s indie darlings, a title held in previous years by Death Cab For Cutie and Modest Mouse. With that being said though, James Mercer and company did not write an album for mainstream success. Instead, the band took more risks, thus making Wincing their most unique album to date.
The album begins with “Sleeping Lessons,” with echoed vibes pulsating up and down throughout your head and Mercer’s smooth falsetto flowing seamlessly with them. After two or so minutes, the rest of the band jams in, playing their familiar indie pop sound. “Australia” is a peppy track, as Dave Hernandez doesn’t miss a beat with his bass. “Pam Berry” is a low, menacing track that leads into the first single, “Phantom Limb.” Beginning with a low reverb, Mercer gracefully strums the guitar, as the song has a relaxing aura about it. “Sea Legs” holds a dreamy state of mind, as Mercer and company channel some of Radiohead. From the moody bass line to the offbeat drumming of Jesse Sandoval, the track is a welcomed change from the usual. On the lullaby “Red Rabbits,” keyboardist Marty Crandall really shines and really is the unsung hero of this record.
“Turn On Me” brings the indie rock, where Mercer shows his guitar skills, while “Black Wave” is very atmospheric and dark folk song. Mercer’s voice is nicely layered with echoes throughout the track as well. The cryptic “Spilt Needles” follows, as Mercer’s lyrics caution “We’ll set you up with some odd convictions/because you’re finally golden, boy.” “Girl Sailor” is a love song heavy on emotion, while the album closer, “A Comet Appears,” falls upon your ears with gentle strumming of the guitar and Mercer’s calming voice. It finishes the album on a somber note, yet sums up the general feelings of the album and Mercer in particular.
The inspiration for the title of this album comes from Mercer’s sense of isolation during the stressful periods of writing this album and how he needed to wince the night away. It must have been very taxing trying to write a follow up to an album many consider to be amazing, but The Shins did a grand job following Chutes. It would be ridiculous for fans to put this album off, as it is a display of different techniques and writing from Mercer this time around. At one of the most crucial points in the band’s 10 year career, where they are teetering on the edge of major mainstream success, The Shins decided against writing the “safe” record and wrote the first truly fine album of 2007.
Aren't they from Portland, Oregon? Am I missing something?
I agree it's not safe, but it's not the classic Shins fans have come to love--a little dangerous to go this avenue but I think they pulled together fantasticly. I hope to see them go back to an Oh! Inverted World sound on the next album. One of Sub Pop's truly great bands.
It's actually called Spilt Needles. Split was from the leaked versions. The Phantom Limbs single has an alternate version of that song and another b-side called Nothing At All on it. Can't wait to get my hands on that!
The lyrics would have been one of my highest ratings out of anything on the album. I think that's where The Shins always shine and that has me coming back way more than the music in general. They lose the thought-provoking and imaginative lyrics and they've lost me even if they are splendid ear candy. Luckily, they've still got it and hit every mark! It has been a long, long four years. This is coming from someone who saw Garden State because The Shins music was featured in it (and Natalie Portman). ;)
I do enjoy the album - it took a few listens as it is a departure from their last record. But it is the perfect sort of growth and challenge I expect a band like The Shins to make.
The review was boring however. Reviews that talk about tommy's brooding voice over allen's thumping bass and the beat skin sound of jared...rather lame. Simply using a thesaurus doesn't make a quality review.