Review: Jack Foley
ALBUQUERQUE foursome, The Shins, are the indie pop band that
have got the US music press gushing at the moment.
Having come from nowhere with their debut album, Oh, Inverted
World, in 2001, when it became one of the US indie scenes
success stories, selling around 150,000 copies during its lifetime,
the band then went about becoming more famous and, well, cool.
According to various reports, the band's drummer, Jesse Sandoval,
is dating America's next top model, while tickets for their concerts
sell on Ebay for $100.
And it's easy to see why...
I wasn't totally convinced by the first single, So Says I,
but the album, Chutes Too Narrow, is an altogether different
affair - a retro-style indie throwback which recalls memories
of The Byrds, Neil Young and George Harrison, which also containing
contemporary nods to the likes of Badly Drawn Boy and Hot Hot
There is barely a dud track on it, all arriving like infectious
pockets of joy that, collectively, clock in at under 30 minutes.
Think of bands such as The La's, or, more recently, The Stands,
for the type of thing to expect. This is an album so catchy, it
will probably have you baying for more.
James Mercer's busy vocals are the first thing you notice, containing
plenty of upbeat melodies, while the rest of the band contribute
some great hooks, beats and harmonies.
Production values come courtesy of Phil Ek (of Built to Spill/Modest
Mouse fame) and serve to really elevate the sound quality from
the independent, in-your-basement vibe of the debut.
But it is the amount the band packs into every record that really
makes listening to it such a joy.
The tracks may be short, but they're far busier than a lot of
the material doing the rounds, with hammond organs, chirpy guitars,
and some brilliant mouth organ, all making an impression at some
Opening track, Kissing the Lipless, sets things up in
fine style, evoking comparsions with the vocal style of bands
such as Hot Hot Heat, before easing effortlessly into the quirkily
named Mine's Not a High Horse - a title which perfectly
demonstrates the lyrical dexterity contained throughout.
The Badly Drawn Boy comparison crops up on Pink Bullets,
which is one of the album's highlights, while a country influence
seeps into the wistful ballad, Gone for Good, which also
harks back to a Sixties-based era.
Fighting in a Sack brings in the mouth organs to terrific
effect, while the guitar-charged Turn a Square is a near-perfect
indie-pop blast, complete with background organs, which should
surely become a future single.
I recently read a quote from The Stands' singer-songwriter, Howie
Payne, which stated that 'some of the great tracks of the past
are based around the same melodic structures'.
That comment is almost perfectly demonstrated here - the influences
may be old, but they help to ensure that Chutes Too Narrow
will become a timeless gem.
1. Kissing the Lipless
2. Mine's Not A High Horse
3. So Says I
4. Young Pilgrims
5. Saint Simon
6. Fighting In a Sack
7. Pink Bullets
8. Turn a Square
9. Gone For Good
10. Those to Come