Monday, February 05, 2007

Airwave Blog 2: The Shins 'Wincing the Night Away'


Indie-rock's hardest-working slackers finally release their third album (Sub Pop Record), on which they've made the clear transition from bedroom-pop to stadium-rock without losing everything that makes them great.

Those soaring vocals that sound like the unholiest collision of the Cure and Simon and Garfunkel, the nimble pop hooks that are never overused, those lyrics that are as self-deprecating and razor sharp as they are playful--dude, it's all still here. Relax, you can still swoon.

Musically, there are some new elements, from the ragged surf-rock that propels "Pam Berry" to the near hip-hop beats of "Sea Legs" and percolating electronica on "Sleeping Lessons" (which two thirds of the way through shows Band of Horses how to write a song).

Wincing is neither the clever genre recombinant exercise of their second album nor is it the perfect little self-contained universe of their debut. This is not the Shins' best album; it's their growing pains third record.

James Mercer has learned how to shout his words so the folks in the back row can hear; a slightly harder edge and more confidence is on display. But it doesn't gel fully.

Mercer remains one of the most talented songwriters working in pop today, and what this album proves is that the group deserves to move beyond the little Zach-Braff-movie-watching, This-American-Life-listening, Frappuccino-sipping demo-ghetto they've found themselves in. Wincing confidently bristles with stupendous and smart rock music that deserves to be enjoyed by your kid brother and your folks as much as your dorm-mates.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5

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