Blame Zach Braff for this. When he slipped thirty seconds of The Shins’ ‘New Slang’ onto the soundtrack of his film Garden State, he exposed the band to a level of attention they had previously only dreamed of. And, while some of the folks who dug those dreamy thirty seconds might not even realise the same band have a new record out, way more of them will have been ready and waiting for ‘Wincing The Night Away’ for the last two years. And chances are, it won’t disappoint.
For a good start, this is a record brimming with all the solid songwriting, odd charm and catchy quirks that have typified The Shins’ music to date. ‘Sleeping Lessons’ bubbles into view, echoing like something Disney dragged up from the sea, before getting its head down, ‘Pam Berry’ is a sawing fuzzy, interlude and ‘Sea Legs’ clicks and whispers like a cut up copy of The Postal Service. Despite all these peculiarities though, this is no kooky indie crazy train, not at all. Underneath (and in fact, and as a first for The Shins, mostly on top of) those old appealing eccentricities lie sure-footed and sober songs. ‘Phantom Limb’ twinkles like its been sprinkled with Brian Wilson dust, ‘A Comet Appears’ is a lovely American lullaby rather than a psychedelic daydream and ‘Australia’ is the sort of thing Keane might able to come up with if they cared about happy pills rather than musical mediocrity, cash and cocaine.
Really though The Shins, with all their pop experiments and smart rock abandon, remain a band in their own genre. ‘Wincing…’ is that fizzy, bubbly background music to your favourite dreams or that perfect kiss in that perfect film, it’s all-at-once innocent and clever and dark and cheery, and it’s bound to ensnare thousands more listeners too, with Braff on board or not.
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