Tag Archives: Shins

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.

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Lollapalooza 2006: Day Three

Take the whole day off...Three days of being outside in the heat is a long time. When I woke up Sunday morning, I was still tired and vaguely hungover, and the weatherman was telling me it was going to rain. Fun! Thoughts drifted back to Lollapalooza 2005 and how everything was squashed together in half the real estate over two days. Less walking, fewer skippable timeslots. But hey, America thrives on Growth at all costs, so stop your whining, you little commie!

Expect Lollapalooza 2012 to stretch from Soldier Field to Foster Beach and last from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Redwalls, Ben Kweller, and Death Cab will be the only three bands to have played all eight years!

So anyway, all week I’d been getting these spammish invitations to the “ck one music lounge” at the Hard Rock Hotel. There were promises of free booze, air conditioning, and a “gift suite.” I saw the episode of the Sopranos where Chrissy hangs out with Ben Kingsley, so I wanted to at least try to score a free PSP. Right?

As you might have guessed, no such luck. After waiting behind some blatantly Hot Topic-styled “Rock Stars” we got to the front of the line where the hostess took one look at me and asked, “Media?” Obviously not “Artist.” I got my pass and went to the lounge and got hassled by the bartender for my I.D. He was such a dick I initially thought he was just joking around with me. After conferring with another bartender (no shit!), he finally relented and gave me a bottle of Italian beer. Thanks a lot, jackass.

There were some hot dogs and pinball machines and video games and beanbag chairs, and an absolute lack of any schwag worth carrying. I chugged my beer, grabbed a tiny sample bottle of CK Be and a pack of Ask the Kabala oracle cards (I’m not kidding) to prove to my non-VIP pals what they were missing, and we got the hell out of there before the “Kill Hannah DJ Set” started. Oy.

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The Shins: It’s Rad To Be Cooler Than God

Able to leap tall buildings...The Shins at Webster Hall

NYC, April 23, 2005

The Shins are bigger than Jesus. At least, that’s what it seemed as a packed collective of eager devotees cheered Kevin Spac–James Mercer as he and his merry bunch of Shins anti-climactically took the stage, picking up their instruments as if in an empty rehearsal room, nothing but egg-crated walls around them. We all know the story–inclusion in little-film-that-couldn’t-but-does and its accompanying soundtrack, placing the band’s sharp vintage-Brit melodies on the minds of its viewers.

That The Shins had to add a third show at New York’s Wester Hall because of two quick sell-outs when only a year or two ago they were playing to a much smaller but devoted following at the tinier Irving Plaza is a testament to just how far they’ve come. The fans the band have acquired with their larger awareness proved to be just as zealous about their band, however, and why not? After two brilliant albums that displayed a modernity of sound but classic integrity of songwriting, it’s no surprise people are clamoring to hear James Mercer’s hooks over and over.

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The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Music from the Movie and More

Various – The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Music from the Movie and More (Sire)

Kid flicks that appeal to both parents and kids are a rarity, and the same brand of TV shows are only slightly more tolerable. When some Hollywood goons noticed square yellow keyrings hanging from the rearview mirrors of a few college jokers, the execs realized that the SpongeBob movie had a rare potential to please the kiddies and be simultaneously hip as Hell.

Alright, some people got suckered into seeing it and surely, some people have been suckered into buying the soundtrack. But you’re smart, you guessed it, it’s half for the college crowd with tracks by the Flaming Lips, the Shins, Wilco, and Ween, and the kid/adult gap is strategically buffered with a short and semi-tolerable cut by the age-bracket-defying moneymaker Avril Lavigne. The rest is like using fine beach sand instead of ClearEyes.

Do yourself a favor: get the good songs from iTunes for $4.95 and put them on your iPod. You know which songs to get. Anyway, if you or your kid needs a SpongeBob fix, flip on the TV show. If your kid wants to get the soundtrack, just dig out something equally child-friendly, like Ween’s classic Chocolate and Cheese (just ignore the parental warning) and that will end it, hopefully for good.

Warning: SpongeBob apparently advocates tolerance toward homosexuality! Gasp…

The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow

The ShinsChutes Too Narrow (Subpop)

If you live in a warm weather locale (damn you New Jersey and you’re frosty cold winters!), tomorrow morning—very early—wake up and look out of your window. The sun should just be rising, only enough to cast a glistening light off of the dewdrops on each blade of grass. There will be a slight fog cast over the horizon. Now, go back at mid-morning. It’ll be warmer; the sun should have dried up every last bit of moisture in the air and on the ground.

And that’s the perfect metaphor for the progression from The Shins’ debut Oh, Inverted World! to their latest, Chutes Too Narrow.

Oh, Inverted World! was ultimately an incredibly hyped album, and for all its genius was also pretty juvenile and naïve, the band’s inexperience leading to moments of imperfection. Chutes Too Narrow finds those moments all but washed away under the strength of James Mercer’s songwriting ability. The haze that lent itself to Inverted World‘s duration, while strong on atmosphere, homogenized much of the album; leaving the songs consistent but like-minded. Each song on Chutes is an exploration of something fresh and new for the band, and the band pull it off quite convincingly. The only common bond between the ten songs on Chutes is Mercer’s voice, which hits its watershed moment during the bridge of “Saint Simon” when Mercer finds himself aching next to a pained string arrangement. This flourish alone is more moving then full albums usually are; the arrangement’s weightlessness is perfectly counteracted by the gravity of its emotion.

Elsewhere, “Kissing the Lipless” is all loud guitar bursts and pure pop fury, “Those to Come” is the long lost b-side from Sunny Day Real Estate’s How it Feels to Be Something On, and “Gone for Good” is the beautiful pedal-steel heartbreaker Ryan Adams is too cool to write. Chutes finds The Shins resting comfortably not on their laurels, but on a strong sense of the strength of the songs. At first, you won’t be able to find a track that’s blatantly original—all of the points of lineage are easily traceable—yet with each subsequent listen you discover that the hue The Shins project isn’t anyone’s but their own. Originality and experimentation are things to be celebrated, but there are only so many things under the sun. It is another breed of great band that can take a language and speak it in its own dialect.

You can download an MP3 of “So Says I” via Subpop.