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The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow


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 scene’s 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 Heat.

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 point.

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.

 

 

Track listing:
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

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