The Shins – Wincing the Night Away

The Shins - Wincing the Night AwayThe ShinsWincing the Night Away (Subpop)

The best part of being a music lover is when you listen to a new release from a favorite artist—one you’ve been waiting for—for the first time. It’s a moment that makes you forget what’s going on in your life or whatever else is on your mind. All is love. Despite two full-time jobs (I’m still figuring out how it’s possible to have two full-time jobs), it’s something I find time to make an event out of.

So I guess you might know how I feel about the Shins and their forthcoming album Wincing the Night Away (due January 23, 2007). I’m expecting a backlash for two reasons. 1) It’s been three years since Chutes Too Narrow, and in this day and age people don’t want to wait for an album that long without it being an undeniable masterpiece (a dangerous proposition because, uh, there is no such thing). 2) A majority of the band’s fanbase (the Garden Staters) fell in love with a song long after they’d already shifted stylistically. Regardless, Wincing is a fantastic album.

The sharp melodies and clever twists and turns still abound. They’re still finding ways to make minor progressions seem warm and fuzzy. But your enjoyment of the album, whether you’re a Shins fan or not, will depend on how you feel about the instrumentation. There are songs, like the first single “Phantom Limb” or the sublime “Turn On Me,” that sound like vintage Shins. But those are rare. Hardly does a traditional instrument appear without a warm electronic wash or cadre of vocal harmonies. The songs are more rounded and fleshed out than their previous albums. Rolling Stone says, “they’ve grown up and out of their pretty psychedelic Sixties pop,” which is true. What they only hinted at on “Mine’s Not a High Horse” is now what they now hang their hat on.

Personally, I love the new direction, and Mercer’s voice triggers my endorphins like no other. Something about it just clicks with me. There was recently a message board thread about moments when all of the ingredients in a song come together for one blissful peak. I consider it apropos because, to my biochemistry, no single band has more of those moments than the Shins. They’ve perfected creating those moments. And Wincing the Night Away is full of them. For example: the chorus of “Turn On Me,” when James Mercer sings, “‘Cause you had to know that I was fond of you. Fond of y-o-u,” and all at once I remember every single reason I love life.

You can stream the lead single, “Phantom Limb,” on myspace.

Update: Download “Phantom Limb” here.

31 thoughts on “The Shins – Wincing the Night Away”

  1. Wow, man. Right on. Without a trace of sarcasm, I have to compliment you on crystallizing perfectly why you think it’s important for us to know this record. And that’s what it’s all about. Even LB sometimes wasn’t able to give us that, and you did.

  2. Great review T4. I’ve been listening to theis one and it sounds pretty good. I was surprised, I wasn’t sure waht to expect after such a break between albums, but the Shins really put it all together for this one.

  3. First, off let me say that i’m a HUGE shins fan for a very long time.

    That being said, i’m very let down by the album. 11 songs, 1 of them an interlude. so it’s really 10 songs. of those 10, 3 are slow songs that i like to refer to as ‘non-songs’ or ‘background music’. And let me say, not all slow songs can be lumped into this category. Just the ones that are more atmosphere than actual song. so now we’re left with 7 actual new songs. of them, it’s okay. i think the first 2 albums were infinitely better. The first album was a 9. The second was a 10. This one is a 7.

    Listen to track 5 (“Sea Legs”). I feel this is actually the first song they’ve ever released that qualifies as truly, sincerely bad.

    In addition. Like you said, 10/11 new songs in 3.5 years?!? That’s ridiculous.

    I’m not trying to be a hater. I’ve been listening to it a lot the passed few weeks and it still hasn’t grown on me. I really really wish it was better than it is.

  4. I say the new album kicks ass. No it won’t change the history of music, but I love love love it.

    Ben, I have no idea how you can’t like this one.

  5. All grown up, indeed. We’ve progressed with this band, and finally, the whiney vocals of Mercer are all but long gone. What we have now is not a departure from the 60’s pop form that we know and love, but a progression of it. Listen to this album and you will most definately hear The Beach Boys in their most contemplative moments. Wincing resonates Pet Sounds in its technical prowess, it’s brooding definement and lyrical depth. Although it will never achieve a Pet Sounds accolade as a ‘place in history’, it certainly will please its fanbase and perhaps reach new ones…maybe. The title of this album suggests the state of mind that its songs were written in, and we feel the ache in the melodies. There are plenty of Shutes retreads on the album with some progressions one might expect from a promising troup. It’s a step forward, albeit a small one. That’s okay. We’re enjoying the journey. Not every release has to be groundbreaking. It just has to be rewarding.

  6. First off I would like to say nicely put, now i know what to expect in Wincing from both the article and the comments. I really hope that The Shins still stay attached to Chutes too Narrow and maybe blend it with Oh, Inverted World to make the new album, but If different I respect their decision, after all they are The Shins.

  7. I’ve resisted downloading the album so far, but I just want to say that this review has summed up my love of music and particularly the shins in a way nothing I’ve read ever has.

  8. You hit the nail square on the head. The more you listen to the album, the more familiar and shinsish it becomes. “Turn on Me” is the best thing they’ve ever done, it makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

  9. Certainly been hearing some backlash for this album, so wasnt sure what to expect going, but I gotta say Im really enjoying it. While one previous poster said “sea legs” qualified as the first ever “bad song”…its one of my favorites :)

  10. Am I the only one who’s hearing ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’ in this? And I have to agree with Rex and not-so-much with Ben on ‘Sea Legs.’ Incredible song. Why do so many people wish their favorite bands to stay in a holding pattern?

  11. Whenever anything leaks nowadays, it gets a crapload of negative reactions. People love being the first ones to call an album inferior… and I believe it actually affects the overall reaction of the blogosphere and other media. I’m rather fond of Wincing the Night Away, but it’s had to grow on me significantly. Excellent summary.

  12. Chutes Too Narrow is definitely their best album, IMO. And I have to agree with Ben for the most part.

    It’s a 7, maybe an 8 with time. There’re some fillers this time around, whereas there were none with CTN and one or two with their debut.

    I like Sea Legs. But I must say, as an Australian myself, I thank The Shins for naming one of the best and most enjoyable tracks on the album after us!

    Girl Sailor, Turn on Me, and Phantom Limb are all terrific.

  13. I’ve been waiting for this with baited breath..I have to admit I’m a bit dissapointed. I’ve never stopped listening to Chutes Too Narrow since I purchased it…is was and still is that good. There are 3 or 4 songs on that album that just knocked me over on the first listen, and many other solid tracks. Sadly, I kept anticipating one of those moments on this record…and they seemed ALMOST there..but never quite materialized. I like their approach to making the record, I just don’t think Mercer had the strokes of genius in songwriting on this one that he’s had in the past. It deserves more lisening, though.

  14. Morrissey called. He said put all the fancy/cheesy instrumentation on a bad song you want and it is still a bad song. Oh ya and he wants the mediocre songs off of his records back.

    That being said there are a few good maybe even great songs on this record but it is far from a front to back masterpeice like their last 2 records. Turn On Me, Phantom Limbs and A Comment Appears are the standout tracks IMO.

  15. yeahhhh, the new album pretty much rocks my socks. at first i was slightly disappointed, then as i played it over, i knew why the shins are my favorite band.

    i get to see them dec 13th in portland.


    cant wait to hear the new stuff live.


  16. After four or so listens, I enjoy the album. I never expected it to top or even meet the last one, but I was expecting something a bit more, which has less to do with the three years it has taken than it does with the fact that they do seem to have grown up in that time.

    Isn’t growing up, in the context of rock/pop music, often a negative thing, associated with a drop in creativity and the rise of complacency? The Shins had a very capably expressed immaturity, I felt. It was naive without being twee. On some of the new songs, notably “Phantom Limb,” they remind me of Guster — a band that I like but one that is considerably more middle of the road.

    I think “Turn On Me” is sublime. But while I do enjoy the rest of the album, it doesn’t satisfy the part of me that Chutes Too Narrow did and which few other bands, if any, have been able to. Up until now, they’ve had a unique and curiously intoxicating pop sense — I do not particularly love Oh, Inverted World, yet when I do listen to that album, it still satisfies that special itch, it was just something in their nature. The new album satisfies a part of me that is easily sated by a fair number of other indie pop records that are released every year. Enjoyable, but unremarkable.

  17. Ok, Iv tryed and tryed , and yes me too like everyone , Im a big shins fan ,

    but after about a month of playing Witching the night away ,

    well It kinda sucks ! about 3 of 11 songs are good the rest are ok but give me a brake , Phill Eackkk what were you thinking , 3/4 of this album should have been trashed ,

  18. I love this review, spot on.

    I wish the garden state fanboys would chill out and let The Shins progress in whichever direction they choose to take. I’m sorry… not every song on the album can be a New Slang, ok?

    As you said …

    The chorus of “Turn On Me,” when James Mercer sings, “‘Cause you had to know that I was fond of you. Fond of y-o-u,” and all at once I remember every single reason I love life.

    a month later, im still feeling this way.

  19. i am just starting to listen to the new album, i caved and downloaded it, but i dont know what people are on about! its a great listen and yeah, bands change, embrace it and dont wish they kept producing the tunes of the old days. if you love the band, you should let that fact go, and instead of comparing it to chutes too narrow or oh inverted world, judge it for what it is and not what it fails to be.

  20. “3 are slow songs that i like to refer to as ‘non-songs’ or ‘background music’…Listen to track 5 (“Sea Legs”). I feel this is actually the first song they’ve ever released that qualifies as truly, sincerely bad…”

    Wow. People are entitled to their opinion, certainly. But I think ‘Sea Legs’ is perhaps their finest song to date. Great album. 10/10.

  21. ANYONE WANNA BUY THE SHINS ALBUM LEGALLY Right NOW? (I DIDNT I DLED IT MONTHS AGO) Somehow i stumbled upon Phantom Limb on iTunes, without all the preorder stuff on it, the full album available for purchase of course i didnt purchase it, but I did purchase the bonus track which you would normally have to preorder the whole cd for. Heres a link and it will open up in your itunes automaticly wen this link is opened in your browser. You can also preview every song on this album, something you couldn’t normally do until realeased.

  22. I have to say, Sea Legs is an awesome song, complex and brooding. I can’t understand how anyone could refer to it as the worst song on the album?

  23. the album has grown on me in the last few days and i do think that it’s solid (4/5 stars), but it’s not up there with Chutes Too Narrow. Here’s a song by song review:

    Sleeping Lessons (4.5/5)

    Austrailia (4.5/5)

    Pam Berry ??

    Phantom Limb (4.5/5)

    Sea Legs (4.5/5)

    Red Rabbits (3.5/5)

    Turn On Me (4/5)

    Black Wave (4/5)

    Split Needles (4.5/5)

    Girl Sailor (4/5)

    A Comet Appears (3.5/5)

  24. I would just like to say firstly that yes i did discover the shins from the film garden state. Being Irish it would have been nearly impossible for me to have heard of them any other way. Most of my mates have still not heard of them except from me. Having said that I feel those of us who discovered the shins through garden state are always being given a pretty rough deal by those fans who were fans since before the film. It’s a silly mentality to think that you somehow own them because u discovered them first. Nobody can help it if the part of the world they live in stops them from discovering a band earlier and it doesn’t mean that we don’t dig their music just as much as a longer-time fan. I personally am mad about their two first albums and was eagerly awaiting ‘wincing’. It hasn’t let me down at all and i think it’s totally brilliant. Red Rabbits is unlike any song i’ve heard before. Being a massive Pet Sounds fan has really helped me appreciate the shins influences but also their creativity and imagination. Long may it continue.

  25. That’s not what I was trying to insinuate David, sorry if you took it that way. I just think (and I know a couple of examples myself) that some people would go into “Wincing” expecting lots of “New Slang” because Garden State is the freshest version of The Shins in a lot of people’s minds, and I wondered how that would effect their reaction to the album.

    I’m glad you like it, but I wouldn’t expect any less from a fan of Pet Sounds.

  26. I actually wasn’t having a go at you Tom at all, I thought your review was excellent. What prompted my comment on the treatment of post-garden state fans was Nigel’s comments above. We can’t all be lumped into the same category as people that just want to hear endless re-runs of ‘new slang’. I actually prefer a number of their other songs and it’s annoying when people generalise you as someone who likes a band for one song. Every song by the shins i have liked (some more than others obviously), but i’ve yet to find one i actually dislike. Anyway, yeh Pet sounds kicks ass. Read in paper today about denny doherty of mamas and papas dying last night. They were great too in their time!

  27. I don’t know what the hell any of you are talking about, and I haven’t had a chance to listed to the newest album much yet (though so far I like it), but all I know is I simply can’t stop listening to “New Slang,” and I mean literally I have it on repeat on my laptop, and I’m not some moron Garden State fan — I’m a pretty accomplished bass player in a pretty damned accomplished and talented blue grass/folk/rock/traditional band, and all I know is this is totally and completely and simply an unbelievably compelling song. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a song just make me want to hear it over and over an over again until I know every single nuance of it (and of course the full bass line) — it’s quite honestly a little inexplicable and a little weird – but also pretty cool. Don’t know much about the relative merits of it, but it has certainly had some kind of amazing effect on me . . .

  28. Wazu, I think a lot of us have had that feeling with New Slang, which is truly an amazing song in a strange and undescribable way, whether you’re a “Garden Stater” or their first fan from way back before everyone else heard of them. I also love this album, and think it is a necessary and good step in a slightly different direction. My favourite song off it, which nobody has mentioned yet would have to be the first song, “Sleeping Lessons”, and once again I can’t describe why I love it so much.

  29. The Shins remind me of a less high-strung REM in their musical progression. This CD is harder than Chutes Too Narrow and that’s going to turn some people off. Peronally I like the CD, if you just relax and let it wash over you, it’s great.

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