Saturday, 2 August 2008

The Shins, Wincing The Night Away

The Shins, Wincing The Night Away

Proving that lumberjack shirts never die, just get passed on to wistful American indie-poppers, The Shins return with their third album Wincing The Night Away. A definite departure from its more organic predecessor Chutes Too Narrow, it’s immediately obvious why the album was three years in the making. The eleven tracks here are darker and trippier, often letting the intricate textures and dense soundscapes obscure the melodies. James Mercer’s oblique lyrics have become more confusing still, leaving you with almost no idea of what the songs are supposed to be about but a smug feeling of having improved your vocabulary. Try listening on earphones overnight for full effect.

No doubt many Shins fans will be disappointed at this break from the Byrds-esque sunshine melodies of their earlier output but, unless you’re Oasis, experimentation is inevitable from a third album. It’s certainly not prog, but there are complex tapestries of found sounds and shimmering synth, even a bit of baggy on ‘Sealegs’. Standout track ‘Red Rabbits’ is festive enough to seem out of place listening in February, its main instrumentation apparently being a melting icicle. In places the album is overwrought and far too slick for Mercer’s mournful vocals but Wincing The Night Away still retains the intimacy and bittersweet warmth of classic Shins. Despite being evangelised by Natalie Portman in the film Garden State, this album probably won’t change your life, but it might smarten up your everyday vernacular.


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