January 24th, 2007 05:30 EST
“You’re finally golden, boy” sings James Mercer, frontman of indie rock darlings The Shins on the track “Split Needles” off their newest album. For longtime fans of this New Mexico bred quartet, Mercer and company have been golden since their first album Oh! Inverted World was released in 2001.
In the six years since they kicked the door down on the independent music scene, with quirky lyrics and unforgettable melodies in tow, The Shins have been propelled into an unexpected stardom thanks to acclaim on countless critics’ lists and a mention in the film “Garden State.”
The band’s third album, the recently released Wincing the Night Away, continues to build upon the pop sensibilities of their earlier releases, with tracks such as “Turn on Me” and “Australia” which maintain that 1960s carefree vibe complete with “la, la, la” sing-a-longs.
The opening track, “Sleeping Lessons,” uses these bubbly, effervescent influences and eventually reaches a crescendo of pulsating and epic guitar riffs. This climax may be surprising to fans that are used to earlier songs by The Shins such as “New Slang,” but in the end, this is one welcome surprise.
Although a few of these tracks could have easily been B-sides on The Shins’ 2003 release Chutes too Narrow, a majority of the tunes on Wincing the Night Away spawn from a more experimental and progressive rock territory.
For instance, tracks, such as “Phantom Limb,” are more in debt to artists such as My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and the Mary Chain thanks to their new wave flourishes and crackling tambourines.
These new wave inspired tracks may be departures, but The Shins cross into truly uncharted territory with a hip-hop beat on the track “Sea Legs.” However, long-time devotees need not fret; this beat ends up creating an unlikely (but still thrilling) back bone for a Morrissey inspired delivery from Mercer.
After multiple spins of Wincing the Night Away, it becomes increasingly evident that The Shins have not only responded to their “Garden State” fame, they may have, in fact, surpassed it. They are the rare example of a band that tests the boundaries their previous albums and successes have built up around them, and yet they still manage to surprise their loyal fan base.
Their mention in “Garden State” was definitely a tall order, with the character of Sam claiming that they’ll change your life. However, if The Shins continue to release albums like Wincing the Night Away, it is definitely a possibility.