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‘Wincing’ never felt so good

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By Daniel Segraves

By Daniel Segraves

The Beach Boys have nothing on the Shins. While their first album, Oh, Inverted World, their sophomore release, Chutes Too Narrow, inspired music critics to make such connections, the Shins new album, Wincing The Night Away, breaks the band free of such comparisons, sending them above the surf-pop band of the sixties.

Early on in the CD, singer/songwriter James Mercer shows that they aren’t just “that one band from ‘Garden State’.” Their below-the-radar hit song “New Slang” is now synonymous with the film.

Selections off the new album, however, show that the band’s ready to set their own reputation in the public eye. The catchy “Australia” (which opens with a very odd exchange) shows trademark Shins style in their harmonic vocals and painfully real lyrics, but the first single of the album, the insightful “Phantom Limb,” hides a sense of innocence lost (“So we just skirt the hallway sides/A phantom and a fly/Follow the lines and wonder why/There’s no connection).

But for those who are already Shins fans, there’s still plenty of there experimental, fun sounds. Tracks like “Red Rabbit”, “Split Needles” and “Black Wave” all sound like The Shins had spent time with Thom Yorke (alt-rock god from Radiohead) before recording.

One of the major highlights of Wincing The Night Away is “Turn On Me”, a rhythmic bout that serves as a sort of anthem for intelligent rebellion (“So affections fade away/And do adults just learn to play/The most ridiculous, repulsive games?”). After a long run as a band focused on perfected sounds with fans that could easily be described as hippies, The Shins are suddenly sounding like they have something a bit heavier on their minds.

Wincing The Night Away closes with a haunting and prolific punch to the soul called “A Comet Appears”. The track is complete with wavy guitar lead, forest sounds, and Mercer describing the painless-yet-horrible realization that youth and happiness is short-lived (“Still to come/The worst part and you know it/there’s a numbness/In your heart and it’s growing”). “A Comet Appears” is a pointed exclamation mark for their fans and carries the same weight as Tinkerbelle admitting that magic isn’t real.

In its entirety, Wincing The Night Away is an amazingly crafted spectrum, from hope to sorrow. It will leave you at the end to question where you belong on an album that will hold a relatable song for everyone.

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