The Shins – Wincing The Night Away

The Shins – Wincing The Night Away



It’s hard to believe now, but up until 2004, the Shins were relative unknowns outside of music critics and indie rock circles. Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow might have garnered them a passionate following, but it wasn’t until the band featured in Zach Braff’s 2004 indie dramedy Garden State that their success really took off. See, the Shins’ music wasn’t just played as a transition between scenes or during the credits—it was the focal point of dialogue, with Natalie Portman declaring that “New Slang” will “change your life,” virtually ensuring anyone who saw the movie would give it a listen.

Between this and the over three-year wait between albums, the Shins faced unreasonably high expectations for the first time in their career. Lesser bands would crack under the pressure or, worse, release an overambitious mess in an attempt at justify the hype. Instead, James Mercer and co. simply moved on ahead as if nothing ever happened, and Wincing The Night Away feels like a natural progression from Chutes Too Narrow. It still uses the group’s same basic formula, matching dark, clever lyrics to sprightly, catchy melodies, but Mercer introduces a few new twists into the mix. Compared to the Shins’ past records, Wincing has a relatively slick production (courtesy of Joe Chiccarelli), and it both helps Mercer’s experiments to cohere and breathes new life into the band’s more well-worn territory. In fact, the quintessentially Shins-sounding numbers on here—namely “Phantom Limb” and the jangly “Australia”—not only don’t feel like retreads but actually stand up to some of the band’s best singles. By and large, though, the album is dedicated to the band expanding their palette. The liberating opener “Sleeping Lessons” begins with woozy keyboards before building to a rousing finish; the pensive, murky “Black Wave” and the bitter “Split Needles” succumb to the darkness of Mercer’s lyrics, while the fuzzy “Pam Berry” recalls past off-kilter interludes like “Your Algebra.” Elsewhere, “Sea Legs” grooves to a stuttering bassline, and “Red Rabbits” skips gently to what sounds like a steel drum merged with an electric piano. It’s not a classic like their debut nor is it as immediate as Chutes, but Wincing The Night Away proved the Shins were a band capable of evolving on their own terms, unconcerned with whose lives they were changing in the process.

Posted on February 27, 2012, in The Shins. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. The Shins rock…….good blog post..thanks for sharing!

    • No problem! Every once in a while, I like doing reviews of older albums, and I thought, with the new Shins record coming out soon, that it would be a good time to revisit Wincing The Night Away.

      • right on…I’m stoked to be following you and having another venue to find out about new music. A lot of the new emerging bands I find out about on the Carston Daily show, Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon.

  2. Wincing The Night Away’s the only The Shins album I’ve heard and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Good to see it featured here. Looking forward to the new album – I can only hope it matches , or even betters, this one.

  3. I really enjoyed Wincing The Night Away, especially “Sleeping Lessons”. That track’s just really satisfying to listen to, for me. I can’t wait for Port Of Morrow to come out in a few weeks! On a sidenote, check out my blog sometime, if you don’t mind! I post about artists or albums I’m really liking from time to time. I just did a post about Of Monsters and Men!


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