Monday, November 20, 2006

"Wincing the Night Away" by The Shins

Who: Indie rock super-awesomes The Shins

What: A way-in-advance review of their new album entitled Wincing the Night Away

When: Release date, January 23rd, 2007

Where: All over, I assume

How: I work in the billing department of a well-known ad agency here in NYC. Because we're all on an inter-connected computer network, everyone in the building's iTunes are linked up. Someone who works in this building has "Wincing the Night Away" on their iTunes; I can only assume that this person is involved with the marketing/advertising of this album, though I can't say for certain that that's true. Whatever the case, I'm exploiting it for funsies.

The Review: My initial impression upon listening to Wincing the Night Away was, and I'm quoting myself here, "Meh." There's isn't an abundance of poppy, catchy hooks like in their previous efforts and they don't do themselves any favors by opening the album with "Sleeping Lessons," as song as sonambulent as it's name would suggest. They compensate, however, by following it up with "Australia," easily the albums tightest, punchiest song and one that would have been at home on Chutes Too Narrow without question. The rest of the songs on Wincing, as a whole, aren't bad, though they do suffer a bit from over-production and from the aforementioned lack of hooks. Songs like "Red Rabbits" and "Black Wave" in particular find The Shins attempting to mix their own style with Radiohead-ish sonic landscapes and, at least for me, it's not something that mixes well.

This kind of experimentation is perfectly understandable from a band coming off of an album such as the widely-enjoyed Chutes Too Narrow; they want to prove that they've got more to them than finely-tuned pop songs and crisply written lyrics. Why a band as talented as The Shins would want to be more than that is beyond me but whatever.

The good news is, after a few more listens, the album does in fact cohere into a respectable work. It's nowhere as likeable as they're earlier albums, but it's got it's own minimal charms. Overall, it's a very pleasant album; something good to have on in the background while you're working (it's served that purpose well in my experience). It's not going to turn anyone off of The Shins, though it's not going to win over anyone who's not already a fan. Here's hoping, though, that they've gotten the experimentation out of their collective systems and go back, the next time around, to doing what they do best.

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