Wincing the Night Away
The Shins have nestled snugly in pop music’s consciousness. Actor Zach Braff pulled a Gus Van Sant (a la the filmmaker’s use of Elliott Smith on the Good Will Hunting score lo those many years ago) by using a few tracks by the band on his Garden State soundtrack, effectively introducing them to a wide audience. Sarah Harmer’s done her part by covering “Gone for Good” (from 2003’s Chutes Too Narrow) on her last couple tours. Still, a band must earn its keep, its right, to stay nestled in our consciousness. On the basis of their third full-length, Wincing the Night Away, The Shins are earning that right. This is a much more heavily-produced album than the first two. Not in terms of slickness but in terms of multiple parts and effects working together, in balance, for a well-realized melodic whole. This comes through on the moody, ’80s-like (dare we say vintage Simple Minds?) “Sea Legs,” or even on “Sleeping Lessons,” the opener, to name a couple. Those songs could’ve made risky, exciting first singles because of their evolved sound; instead, band (or label, or both) went with the safe “Phantom Limb.” This tune belongs to the era of the first two albums. Let’s hope the business always respects the creativity of this band.