The Shins - Wincing The Night Away
After creating one of the most perfect indie-pop records of recent times with Chutes Too Narrow, The Shins had a hard record to follow. With Wincing The Night Away I don't think they've done it. It feels as though they've removed all the loveable parts of the band, the songs feel so very clean and pristine that they're practically not there, the songs wash over you without making much of an impact.
The main problem with this album is its lack of depth. It feels as though the band is going through the motions, as if they've discovered how to package distinct slices of The Shins into disposable three and a half minutes segments. "Sea Legs" sounds like something Beck did ten years ago, all stopping starting guitars and beats with the reverb vocals floating over the top. There are only so many times I can hear those crystal clear vocals before I want to tear the CD out of the player and throw it across the room. The lyrics also seem to be taking things a little seriously too, "Red Rabbits" feels like a nursery rhyme with its jewellery box tinkles and throw away lyrics; "I still owe you for the hole in the floor and the ghost in the wall". Perhaps I've just grown weary of their sugar-coated parcels.
There are a couple of highlights scattered through it however, "Phantom Limb" is all that's right with The Shins, perfect melodies, catchy guitars and a sing-a-long chorus. "Turn On Me" comes across all country-rock with it's chugging guitar line, but it feels more homely, it may deal with the usual forlorn love, but the vocals seem to be all over the place and less produced, it actually goes somewhere. It feels as though they where trying something different. "Split Needles" also falls into this category, mainly due to it's lack of polish. The guitars are fuzzed up a bit, the vocals unsheened and jarring keyboards cycling round the rest of the music, great stuff.
Much has been said about how this album matches up to past glories but I'm afraid it just doesn't quite do it for me. It's a very hard album to love, the production and arrangements are so clean and clear that there's not an ounce of depth to it and feels all the more remote for being so. The first major disappointment of the year.