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Wincing the Night Away

4.5 out of 5 stars 230 customer reviews

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Product Description

Recorded over time in James Mercer's basement studio, Phil Ek's Seattle digs, and in Oregon City with veteran engineer Joe Chiccarelli (Beck,U2) - Wincing the Night Away is a Whole new animal. Its is the sound of a band growing up and out. Mercer's infectious, indelible melodic style is still at the core, and unfaltering. But anything can happen around it - and in this case, it does. Channeling a Morrissey vibe, 'Sea Legs' pairs a hip-hop (yes, hip-hop) beat with lush melodic lines and searing guitars. Elsewhere the band toys with tweaked-out piano steeped in psychedelic strings ('Red Rabbit'); fractured synth samples ('Silt Needles')' gauzy, arpeggiated keyboards cloaking thunderous anthems (Sleeping Lessons')' and, taking cues from early Jesus and Mary Chain albums - Seeping, fuzztoned epics ('Phantom Limb'). Finally, 'Turn on Me,' 'Girl Sailor' and 'Australia' are the lilting, exhilarating, rollicking, rock-solid pop songs we've all come to covet from The Shins.

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Indie-rock's hardest-working slackers finally release their third album, on which they've made the clear transition from bedroom-pop to stadium-rock without losing everything that makes them great. Those soaring vocals that sound like the unholiest collision of the Cure and Simon and Garfunkel, the nimble pop hooks that are never overused, those lyrics that are as self-deprecating and razor sharp as they are playful--dude, it's all still here. Relax, you can still swoon. Musically, there are some new elements, from the ragged surf-rock that propels "Pam Berry" to the near hip-hop beats of "Sea Legs" and percolating electronica on "Sleeping Lessons" (which two thirds of the way through shows Band of Horses how to write a song). Wincing is neither the clever genre recombinant exercise of their second album nor is it the perfect little self-contained universe of their debut. This is not the Shins' best album; it's their growing pains third record. James Mercer has learned how to shout his words so the folks in the back row can hear; a slightly harder edge and more confidence is on display. But it doesn't gel fully. Mercer remains one of the most talented songwriters working in pop today, and what this album proves is that the group deserves to move beyond the little Zach-Braff-movie-watching, This-American-Life-listening, Frappuccino-sipping demo-ghetto they've found themselves in. Wincing confidently bristles with stupendous and smart rock music that deserves to be enjoyed by your kid brother and your folks as much as your dorm-mates. --Mike McGonigal

The Shins Get Their "Sea Legs"

   

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 23, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sub Pop
  • ASIN: B000K2VHN2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (230 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,762 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James on February 18, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Once again, the Shins have put out another fantastic album. While Chutes Too Narrow (their last album before this) took a more stripped-down approach to songwriting and producing, Wincing the Night Away has more in common with Oh, Inverted World, their first album, as far as instrumentation goes. Gone are the simple sonorities are Chutes Too Narrow, and back again are the lush, full sounds of songs like Caring is Creepy, from Oh, Inverted World. This album is, however, different from that one in that they stretch their sound and try more experimental things. Sometimes, this is very overt, such as on the hip-hop inspired Sea Legs. But even on the songs that sound like classic Shins (such as Turn On Me), there is a fuller, more spacious sound.

The lyrics on this album are far more ambitious than anything on either of the Shins' other two albums. Gone are the simple, unaffected love songs of Chutes Too Narrow (for example, "You want to fight for this love,/But honey, you cannot wrestle a dove"). They are replaced by more complex love songs, and more philosophical songs about human nature that we caught a glimpse of on So Says I. Some of Mercer's simple verses on the nature of humanity can be overwhelmingly beautiful. On "A Comet Appears" (the obligatory soft track at the end of the album, and perhaps this disc's best song), Mercer muses "Every post that you can hitch your faith on is a pie in the sky, chock full of lies, a tool we devised to make sinking stones fly." On Sleeping Lessons, the opening track, Mercer preaches "And if the old guard still offends, they've got nothing left on which we depend, so enlist every ounce of your bright blood and off with their heads.
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Format: Audio CD
Oh no! They didn't produce the exact same records that the previous efforts were. They don't sound like "Oh, Inverted World," and "Chutes Too Narrow," they're not "indie" enough on this record, and Wah Wah Wah. Well guess what; If Pink Floyd didn't evolve, we would have been stuck with "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" for 20 years instead of being treated to "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Wish You Were Here." The Beatles would have never achieved Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road and Let it Be. Newsflash to those whose heads are fastened securely up their bums. The mark of a great band is the ability to musically GROW. The first 2 albums were fun to listen to and were catchy, but this album is musically miles and miles ahead of them. Phantom Limbs has so much going on in it, it's almost hard to describe, let alone the relentless building to a crescendo. Sleeping Lessons? Such an arpeggio to open an album would have been unheard of for the other records. The use of what I think is a steel drum on Red Rabbits is pure genius. Another reviewer had it pretty much dead on. It is almost impossible to hate this album. I find this to be their best work. OOOOOOOOOOOOh I'm not cool.. I don't rate the first 2 as highly as this. It takes a bit more thought to "get" this album, but, that's how I like it. The use of several elements to produce one amazing song is the mark of talent. These guys have it while so many others pretend to. If you want the straight forward fluff, go listen to "New Hot Chick With No Musical Ability #53."
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Format: Audio CD
On this fulfilling and masterful album, The Shins have written and produced some of the most capricious, playful, and delicious melodies anyone has written in years. I cannot easily recall the last time I heard melodies this fun, with notes so varied yet perfectly seamed and intertwined. I liked The Shins before Wincing the Night Away. Now I love them.

It took listening to the album about five times before I fell in love with it, so if your ears react like mine give it a chance. At first it will seem all over the place.

All songs are great and two are brilliant:

1- Sleeping Lessons - Melodically, one of the most original songs ever written. Incredible!
2- Turn on Me - Currently, one of those hidden pop gems like Erasure's "A Little Respect", that was mostly unknown in 1988 (when released), was never a big hit anywhere, but everyone heard it and loved it years later as if it had been a huge hit. In Turn on Me's case, I hope it remains a hidden gem. With today's one-sided radio trend, I am almost certain it will remain relatively unknown to the world --- Great for all of us who would prefer not to have it overplayed like A Little Respect was.

If I were forced to compare the songs on this album to other artists, I would compare them to The Smiths/Morrisey in a more playful and joyful way, and Erasure in a more honest/down-to-earth/grass-rooted way, and much less "fabricated for appeal" way.

I love this album! I have no doubt it will be on my Top 5 albums of 2008.
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Format: Audio CD
Listening to The Shins' album, Wincing The Night Away, is like falling into an oceanic daydream. The music is sleepy, the lyrics are poetic, and the sound is rich and harmonious.

The album cover depicts organisms that have tentacles and baleen mouths, revealing the ocean theme that lies beneath. The song titles such as Sea Legs and Girl Sailor suggest an ocean-exploration theme. The music is rich, but quiet and understated. It is often unclear which instruments are being used, which gives the songs a mysterious feel, like being in a dream.

The music is set up to provide a kind of dreamlike state and is complimented by James Mercer's voice, which has an uncanny similarity to The Cure's Robert Smith's. The first track, Sleeping Lessons, draws the listener in with harmonies coming from what sounds like a synthesized, muted, echoing vibraphone. Then, with about a minute left in the song, the music gets rolling and guitar and drums enter, setting course for what's to come. Pam Berry, a kind of interlude, uses a softened surf guitar that conjures images of surf rock and beaches and enhances the album's ocean theme. Phantom Limb, the hit single, has a stronger beat than the others, using drums, bass and even guitar strums to pronounce it. The final track, A Comet Appears, ends the album on a soft note, and sounds like something Simon and Garfunkel would play. The twangy background sounds were made by a hammered dulcimer and a bouzouki. Even a French horn is featured in the song.

The album's lyrics are poetic, but obscure. And just as dreams hide the deeper meaning of ones thoughts, The Shins' lyrics hide the deeper meaning of their songs. Even so, the lyrics could use clarification as fans are aching to know what the songs are really about. But it is still refreshing to hear rock music with poetic lyrics.

Overall, Wincing The Night Away is quite an experience and worth listening to.
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