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The Shins - Wincing The Night Away

The Shins, Wincing The Night Away

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

WHEN Natalie Portman passed Zach Braff her walkman in a key moment from the film Garden State and said, “you have to listen to this, it will change your life”, it certainly changed things for The Shins.

The Albuquerque foursome found instant success with their sophomore album, Chutes Too Narrow and rapidly developed a strong reputation for producing songs that contained an infectious and indelible melodic style.

Step forward a couple of years and expectation surrounding their third album, Wincing The Night Away was even higher. Could The Shins provide the life-changing experience that Ms Portman predicts?

To be honest, they come pretty close. The album is a genuine pleasure to hear; rich in melody, it contains the sort of daydream quality reserved for the best alternative acts.

Take the infectious songwriting of Fountains Of Wayne, toss in a few Beach Boys melodies and a generally breezy guitar vibe and you have the perfect ingredients for a really terrific listen.

Lead single Phantom Limb offered a perfect taster of what to expect – a song that was rich in catchy hooks, shimmering background organs and some utterly laidback Beach Boys-style vocal melodies.

It effortlessly encapsulated The Shins’ feelgood sound as well as displaying a fuller, maturer direction.

The rest of the album provides a similarly satisfying blend of guitars, keyboards, sampled beats and strings.

Opening track Sleeping Lessons unfolds like a wonderful daydream, its enchanting organs eventually giving way to some vibrant guitars and some suitably trippy lyrics (“off with their heads”, etc, etc). Once the song finds its bounce, you’ll be utterly hooked.

It’s followed by the similarly upbeat Australia with its intoxicating blend of guitars, drums, underlying banjo and cheerful chorus.

Pam Berry is a short teaser of a track that quickly gives way to the excellent Phantom Limb.

But from them on the quality is maintained. Sealegs cleverly pairs a hip-hop inspired beat with some truly memorable melodies and searing guitar work, while another highlight comes in the form of Red Rabbits, a track that finds singer/guitarist James Mercer’s vocals at their most touching and perfectly in tune with the innocent melodies.

Turn On Me contains some more excellent guitar work, its striking central riff really grabbing your attention, while Split Needles intersperses some classic rock riffs with fractured synth samples.

And Girl Sailor hints at old-school psychedelia as it warms your heart in its sunshine glow.

Having worked with veteran engineer Joe Chiccarelli (Beck, U2), The Shins seem to have discovered an even greater positivity and a lot more confidence to expand their sound.

The result is an album that can’t fail to impress. It’s an early treat for 2007 that will surely rate among the year’s best. And while it won’t necessarily change your life, it will brighten the cloudiest day.

Download picks: Sleeping Lessons, Phantom Limb, Sea Legs, Red Rabbits, Split Needles

Track listing:

  1. Sleeping Lessons
  2. Australia
  3. Pam Barry
  4. Phantom Limb
  5. Sea Legs
  6. Red Rabbits
  7. Turn On Me
  8. Black Wave
  9. Split Needles
  10. Girl Sailor
  11. Comet Appears