Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Shins - Wincing the Night Away

The Shins: James Mercer (vocals, various instruments, programming); Dave Hernandez (guitar); Marty Crandall (organ, synthesizer, bass guitar, percussion); Jesse Sandoval (drums).

Recording information: Supernatural Sound, Portland, Oregon.

With their music referred to as "life-changing" in the popular 2004 film GARDEN STATE, the Shins, already a revered indie-rock band, recorded their third Sub Pop studio album under the weight of high expectations. Finally, in early '07, the group emerged with the strikingly ambitious and accomplished WINCING THE NIGHT AWAY.

On the opening "Sleeping Lessons," woozy keyboard lines and the wavering vocals of frontman James Mercer immediately announce WINCING as a departure, but slowly the drifting atmospherics give way to a guitar-driven rave-up. Much of the record echoes this more expansive sound, with the shimmering "Phantom Limb" hitting a cavernous crescendo, and the dreamy, synth-laden "Red Rabbits" bordering on ambient territory. Of course, the Shins haven't forsaken their knack for pop-perfect tunes, as best evinced by the exuberant "Australia," proving that they can temper newfound experimentalism with the quirky, easy-going charm that garnered them attention in the first place.

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