The Shins: Wincing the Night Away

By Chris Pacifico

After four long years, The Shins are back. Fans old and new will find their third effort, Wincing the Night Away, dark but accessible. They've relocated from their original stomping grounds of Albuquerque to Portland, where frontman James Mercer was living next door to a crack house. Add in a case of crippling insomnia (the source of the album's title) and close to two years making the album, and Wincing the Night Away sees The Shins still clinging to their cuddly melodies and fetching hooks but this time with a dark storm cloud hovering over things.

The opening salvo, "Sleeping Lessons," is a foreboding slab of bubbly power pop. "Australia" shows their proclivity for peppering their ditties with a dash of minimalist southwestern twang. "Pam Berry" is an interlude tantamount to an airy chill. Viva Voce's Anita Robinson lends her menthol cool pipes to "Turn On Me" and "Phantom Limb."

The Shins have expanded their sugary pop lucidity into barren landscapes with the icy chamber funk of "Sea Legs," a tune with such a rustic rhythmic sashay that it'll leave Beck kicking himself in the ass for not penning it. Decemberist Chris Funk lays down the lap steel guitar for "Red Rabbits."

While not quite the instant classic the previous two Shins albums were, Wincing the Night Away shines more light on Mercer as an artist. It's a lot like getting lit while watching the Teletubbies. It's all frolicsome on the outside but once you take a deeper look, it's apparent that a creepy and enigmatic interior is somehow within.

JamBase | Portland
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[Published on: 1/23/07]

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buddha22 starstarstarstar Tue 1/23/2007 11:26AM
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Not an instant classic? Opinions are like a-holes of course. And my a-hole considers this the best Shins album yet. Almost every song has been my favorite for a day or two, and then the next song intrenches itself in my brain and I end up loving that song even more. Turn on Me is currently A1.
Technically not a jamband but my goodness their albums are fun to listen to

buddha22 starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/23/2007 12:58PM
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by the way, you can listen to the whole album at:

fostersj86 starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/23/2007 02:23PM
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Glad to see some progression in these guys' music. Best shins album yet in my opinion.

kirkbrew starstarstar Tue 1/23/2007 02:29PM
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One thing that you can say about it is that they are not sticking to a formula. So many (too many) bands just stick to the same old, same old and never venture into anything different (I could list, but it ain't worth it). That is the problem with music these days. No one is willing to alienate their existing fan base or their record company. Glad the Shins got the nads to do it. Shows that they have talent and confidence. Looking forward to the Arcade Fire album too which I hope will be a horse of a different color.
Not like anyone cares, but my a-hole was not impressed after one listen. Going to give it a few more goes-a-round.

jsillery starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/23/2007 05:53PM
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gotta agree with kirkbrew, I need to give it a few more spins. I guess after 2 years I was ready to hear the same old shins that i love with new songs but change is necessary for all bands. i'm certain this album will grow nicely on me as all good albums do.

jsillery Tue 1/23/2007 05:54PM
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right, right, that's 4 years--way too many

Stevie_t Tue 1/23/2007 11:36PM
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tomthumb86 starstarstar Wed 1/24/2007 12:19PM
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I've gotta say I think this is by far their best album yet. The song writting has matured lyricly and musically. The soundscapes are brilliant. Much of the albums instrumentation sounds like a modern Pet Sounds or Smile, surprisingly more so than Oh, Inverted World. I think from begining to end it is more cohessive than their previous efforts. The difference with this album is that while the sound of each song is different a similar mood is conveyed. Where on the first two albums many of the songs were very similar in style and emotion. The Shins have taken everything about their sound and pushed it further with this album. It has everything that makes you love the Shins music, but they also show you they can take you farther out into the stratosphere. If anything else, it is nothing short of their first efforts. This album is without question an instant classic, and once fans listen a few more times it will really catch on and be loved as much as the first two. This is their Rubber Soul.

harryhood8 starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/24/2007 02:35PM
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yea i like this album the best also, unleash.

okalrightic star Fri 1/26/2007 10:12AM
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this review is awful. this album on the other hand is fantastic. even though i love their other albums deeply this is definitely the best Shins release to date.

kdogg120 Sat 1/27/2007 11:22AM
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Great band awful review but awesome band