Wincing the Night Away
Google the phrase "the band that will change your life" and you'll get countless webpages talking about The Shins, thanks to the 2004 movie Garden State in which Natalie Portman made such a declaration about the group. Such an endorsement in a popular film plus the high quality music found on The Shins' last album (2003's Chutes Too Narrow) and the group found itself with boatloads of new fans.
The band has added a depth to their sound on the new album that keeps it fresh and interesting. For example, the album's lead-off track, "Sleeping Lessons," begins as a moody, almost Ultravox-esque, atmospheric piece that eventually settles into the bouncy guitar-pop that generally defines the band.
Like many of the band's songs, the single "Phantom Limb" is catchy but somewhat inscrutable. Frontman James Mercer said in an interview last year that the lyrics describe "a young, lesbian couple in high school" living in a small town. However, you'd be forgiven not figuring that out from listening to the song or even reading the words.
The real strength of the band is their catchy hooks, and the essence of the band is the winning melodies and intriguing sound. Near the end of the album, there's a song called "Spilt Needles" which features the lines, "So spin the wheel, we'll set you up with some odd convictions/Because you're finally golden, boy." The Shins, too, are finally golden, with a highly anticipated album and one that delivers on its promise.