Premature Evaluation: The Shins – Wincing The Night Away

Premature Evaluation: The Shins – Wincing The Night Away

Oh, leaking interweb. Thanks for dripping the new Shins record! Before listening, we feared that the band either would turn in a complete retread of their awesome to-date output, or offer up a total snoozer. (Anyone who’s been to a Shins show knows what we’re talking about.) Instead, the album is another step in the crystallization of The Shins’ studio sound (via ever-enhanced production) with some minor departures and some great tunes, all of it enough to earn from us a resounding “very good!”

The first Wincing tracks are among its finest; “Sleeping Lessons” moves forward on the strength of Mercer’s melody and some spacey textures, but the crashing dance-beat guits at 2:25 (ala the outro to Arcade Fire’s “Une Annee Sans Lumiere”) have a full-and-forceful urgency that’s very new for The Shins. Follow that up with “Australia” — which has the band in full command of pop craft, toying with dynamics via shifting drum patterns and spiced with nostalgic ’50s melodies — and you’ll think that those Sub Pop bastards have done it again.

And they sorta have.

The writing is there, though nothing’s mind blowing. As for growth, the record is very safe in ways, and yet possessed of risks that are somewhat miscalculated. “Sea Legs” is a welcome stylistic departure, with its head-rocking groove, its strings, and its surprisingly Smiths-mining melodies. But the track resolves to join The Decemberists in Pink Floyd salutation, and that look isn’t as flattering on The Shins — although maybe it’ll make ‘em more attractive onstage.

Of course, lots of this record is in Mercer’s wordplay, and we’ll need a few more spins to really dig in there. The good news is, the music itself merits repeat spins, entirely independent of our lyrical curiosity. As for song predecessors? That’s a fun game! Well, “Red Rabbits” is this album’s “Young Pilgrims,” and the record closer “A Comet Appears” is its bid for a new “New Slang.” Not destiny altering, but it’ll probably make you want a latte. And the album’s best song? Stereogum’s crushing on “Split Needles.”

For the web-savvy downloaders out there, we welcome you to rate the album on a scale of 1 to Change Your Life. But no, we’re not gonna leak it. If you want it badly enough, it will present itself to you.

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