Wincing the Night Away

Wincing the Night Away

4.6 14
by The Shins
     
 

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While the Shins' 2003 album, Chutes Too Narrow, was widely regarded as very good, most agreed that it lacked the spark that made their debut, Oh, Inverted World!, so bewitching. Much of that magic has returned for Wincing the Night Away, which sees the band moving beyond theSee more details below

Overview

While the Shins' 2003 album, Chutes Too Narrow, was widely regarded as very good, most agreed that it lacked the spark that made their debut, Oh, Inverted World!, so bewitching. Much of that magic has returned for Wincing the Night Away, which sees the band moving beyond the coffeehouse to make their Big Pop Album, while still retaining that thing that made people like them in the first place. At its heart is singer and songwriter James Mercer, whose lovely melodies take unexpected turns and whose lyrics are poetic and elusive. Both facets are in abundance here. Mercer's voice has come a long way, no longer hiding underneath a blanket of reverb. Likewise for the production, which still manages to sound dreamy but is enhanced this time by string and horn sections and a much more prominent use of keyboards. This is an album where surprises and little pleasures appear frequently: the way the opener, "Sleeping Lessons," starts like a lullaby before turning midway into a roaring (for the Shins) rock song; the drum machines that make "Sea Legs" downright funky; and the ebullient "la-la-las" on the irresistible "Australia." If ever there has been a band that is about the little moments, it is the Shins, and Wincing the Night Away is full of them.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Heather Phares
"The Shins will change your life!" That kind of proclamation is loaded with expectations when it's just one friend talking up a band to another, but it's magnified a thousandfold when Natalie Portman says it in a hit movie. The band's popularity was already growing steadily with each album they released, but Garden State took them to another level entirely -- if anyone's life was changed by that praise-filled cameo, it was the Shins'. The expectations and pressure that the Garden State effect brought could've been too much for any band, especially a delicate, wistful one like the Shins. Though they took a little while to deliver a new album, Wincing the Night Away shows that time was well spent. Neither a retread nor a radical departure -- nor, thankfully, a conscious attempt at making "life-changing" music -- the album is a mix of quintessentially Shins songs and tracks that take their sound in subtly different directions. Wincing's clean, borderline slick production is the main concession to the band's post-Garden State fame, but this just makes joyfully sad songs like "Australia" and "Turn on Me" sound like nods to jangly '80s indie instead of jangly '60s guitar pop. "Phantom Limb," Wincing the Night Away's single, is the closest the album comes to the Shins-by-numbers that some fans feared this album would be in the wake of their mainstream success, though the strange, soaring chord change that leads into the chorus keeps things from being too predictable. Actually, many of the album's best moments show how the Shins' music has progressed: "Sleeping Lessons" begins and defines Wincing the Night Away, moving from shimmery opening keyboards to strummy acoustic guitars to a rousing, electrified finish. "Black Wave" is another standout, a stark ballad with chilly layers of electronic textures surrounding James Mercer's plaintive vocals, and "Spilt Needles" continues this dark, dreamy, synth-heavy feel. The band ventures even farther from familiar territory with "Sea Legs"' slinky beat and funky bassline, and with "Red Rabbits"' keyboards, which sound like a cross between dripping water and steel drums. These experiments never feel contrived, and never get in the way of the vulnerable heart of the Shins' music (which beats loudest on the hopeful album closer, "A Comet Appears"). Wincing the Night Away is the sound of the Shins acknowledging where they've been and moving on to new territory, and while it probably won't change your life, it probably will make it more enjoyable -- and, most likely, that's all the Shins wanted to do in the first place.

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Product Details

Release Date:
01/23/2007
Label:
Sub Pop
UPC:
0098787070521
catalogNumber:
705
Rank:
10774

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Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Shins   Primary Artist
Anita Robinson   Background Vocals
James Mercer   Synthesizer,Banjo,Bass,Guitar,Percussion,Ukulele,Vocals,Various,Group Member
Jesse Sandoval   Drums,Group Member
Marty Crandall   Organ,Synthesizer,Bass,Percussion,Bass Guitar,Group Member
Chris Funk   Bouzouki,Hammered Dulcimer,Lap Steel Guitar
Paloma Griffin   Violin
Dave Hernandez   Guitar

Technical Credits

Joe Chiccarelli   Producer,Audio Production
Brian Deck   Engineer
Phil Ek   Producer
Robert Pierce Mercer   Illustrations
Lars Fox   Engineer
Sean Flora   Engineer
James Mercer   Composer,Programming,Producer,beats,Audio Production,MIDI Programming
Hiro Ninagawa   Engineer

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