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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Shins
Wincing the Night Away
Sub Pop

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


February 13, 2007
Though any one of the litany of music magazines sporting a glossy cover shot of The Shins - perhaps assembled in a V-formation with frontman James Mercer in the foreground, strutting the sidewalk like John Travolta in his heyday - might have you believe that he is a pompous rock star, the thought of James Mercer as the lead singer of pop music's crème du jour is not an intuitive one. In fact, near as anyone could tell, Mercer is just a polite, introverted being in his mid-thirties, who climbed out of his shell late in life only to be broadsided in the fallout from his band's film cameo as Natalie Portman's musical infatuation.

This year actually marks a decade since the Shins began in New Mexico, inauspiciously and in slightly different form, under the name Flake Music, conjuring themselves up as any unassuming band might. Back then, however, unlike most weekend warriors with musical ambitions that aim high and shoot low, Mercer and company were not gunning for the spotlight initially, but the corona. But, as the story goes, whatever natural inclinations the band had to be content on the periphery were for naught; in regular succession there would be tours with Modest Mouse, a multi-album deal with one of the most venerable labels, and of course the whole Garden State thing.

And so here we are, us and The Shins, in a now quite different than then. Things have changed. Having dressed their previous pair of albums, Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow, in a flighty, nerdy, indie rocky polyester smock - replete with pocket protector - The Shins have graduated to making an album with a powerful and unapologetic ambience any band would be proud of.

Wincing The Night Away taps into Mercer's inner self-analysis with a paranoia straight out of Charlie Kaufman's notebook, awarding gravity to fleeting problems like bad bosses and insomnia. In his song titles and lyrics, Mercer has an ability to throw anyone's scent of logic off the mark from time to time, as the possibility a song actually relates to Down Under, a girl sailor or a red rabbit is slim to none. These metaphors run deep, but Wincing is not beyond celebrating the art of distraction and it easily meets the criteria for being charged with the task of providing light-hearted background noise. Clocking in around three-quarters of an hour, instead of punching around to the best parts Wincing flows tracks one through eleven run into each other and become one long favorite song.

Intentional or not, The Shins have found themselves atop the pile of popular music, closer to the spotlight than might have been their wont. They can feel the heat, and they are not shying away from it. Rather than taking the McDonalds money and running, Mercer and company have followed up to solid albums with a dense pop brick that is at times both immediately rewarding ("Australia") and at others understated and slow burning ("A Comet Appears"). Wincing The Night Away covers all the bases and proves what loyal followers have known all along, that The Shins are, for better or worse, rock stars.

Reviewed by Josh Mabray
A freelance writer and journalist from McAlester, Oklahoma, Josh Mabray is a contributing writer covering music and film for LAS.

See other reviews by Josh Mabray

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