The Shins CD review by Howard Wuelfing

Music Reviews
The Shins CD review by Howard Wuelfing
By
Jan 22, 2008, 15:49

The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
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THE SHINS Wincing The Night Away CD

The Shins present a fascinating phenomenon: their latest album, Wincing the Night Away, bears unmistakable marks of its creators totally immersing themselves in the Smiths' canon, absorbing it… and proceeding to make music without any overt reference to it. It's impossible to miss the unconscious influences, but they've wholly re-contextualized the material and what emerges is first and foremost The Shins' own unique voice.

Lead singer James Mercer's vocals are elastic, sweeping, dramatic and occasionally rococo. They're lovely, unashamedly ostentatious at times, yet playful and knowing. His lyrics are surreal observations of the social foibles he encounters OR perpetrates replete with arch, acidic put-downs and sly, somewhat obscure puns. There's nothing obvious about them; these lyrics are to be deciphered at length and savored.

The accompanying music is expansive and ambitious. Overall it's determinedly melodic, yet not especially hooky or repetitive. Some songs are modal swoons with diffuse chords and purposefully indistinct changes. Others are more, yet even these suddenly will take abrupt melodic turns, determinedly steering clear of stale convention. Without really changing their style or sound, The Shins do noticeably shift rhythmic gears from one song to the next, rocking forthrightly here, breaking into a waltz there, and so on.

In all this there are many underlying elements readily traceable to the Smith's aesthetic bag-o-tricks, but in every instance The Shins have used them on their own terms and created something fresh, new and substantially their own and not merely regurgitated their influences. [Sub Pop]

-Howard Wuelfing

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