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Chutes Too Narrow

4.5 out of 5 stars 317 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 21, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This is the follow-up to their critically acclaimed debut full-length, "Oh, Inverted World". With ten songs, clocking in at just over 30 minutes, the new record is a brief yet entirely scintillating glimpse at chiming, reflective, and perfectly skewed pop innovation. It's exactly what Shins fans are looking for and more.


The Shins' sophomore album is a joy from start to finish, though it's rather different from their 2001 leftfield pop genius stunner Oh, Inverted World. That album was like a warm embrace from a long-lost pal. True to its title, all of the songs were of a piece, seeming to inhabit one landscape, with an invitingly similar sound throughout. Chutes is more far-reaching and decidedly eclectic. Each song is essentially its own genre exercise. There's singer-songwriter James Mercer's surprisingly Perry Farrell-ish wail on the almost indie-metal opener, "Kissing the Lipless"; the lovely pedal steel lilt to "Gone for Good"; the moody folktronica of "Those to Come"; and the Cars-gone-rockabilly riffing on "Turn a Square." The strongest song, the acoustic "Young Pilgrims," is stripped-down and brilliant. On every tune, Mercer packs more hooks and melodic invention than most bands do on one album. As a whole, it's an even better record than Inverted World. --Mike McGonigal
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 21, 2003)
  • Original Release Date: 2003
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sub Pop
  • ASIN: B00009LVXT
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (317 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,001 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
The October 2003 release of The Shins' "Chutes Too Narrow" should have brought the search for that year's best CD to a screeching halt. And yet, it still managed to miss the top spot of many critics' lists, and to miss the Top 10 entirely on others. My only explaination for this is that these negligent critics did not hear the CD until after their deadlines. (I didn't until May 2004 myself.) That or they were experimenting: "How many CDs can I rank higher than 'Chutes Too Narrow' before I realize the grave injustice that I am committing?" Or maybe, "Obviously 'Chutes Too Narrow' is the best CD of 2003. Here are some other good ones."

By the third time that I listened to The Shins' sophomore triumph, I realized that I had discovered more than just the best new release of the previous year. I had also discovered a disc that was as worthy of accompanying me to a desert island as Elvis Presley's Sun Sessions, "Forever Changes", "The Velvet Underground and Nico", "Setting Sons", "Crazy Rhythms", The Smiths' "Singles", "Exile In Guyville", The Best of Guided By Voices, and "Dear Catastrophe Waitress". It even merits comparison to several of these records. It contains the ornate beauty and simple prettiness of "Forever Changes", but the production is sparser than that of Love's masterpiece. James Mercer's self-deprecating and self-effacing lyrics put him in a league with Morrissey and Stuart Murdoch. The jittery strumming reminds me of The Feelies, and the indie quirkiness of Guided By Voices is firmly in place as well. And while "Chutes Too Narrow" sounds like a product of the 21st century, its homages to classic pop bands like The Zombies, The Beach Boys, and The Kinks are unmistakable. Thus, this CD is a strong link in the Great Chain of Popular Music.
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Format: Audio CD
Most of the associations I have of acoustic rock are not good. To put it bluntly, most acoustic rock doesn't rock. The Shins is not a purely acoustic band; they often and usually employ electric guitars on their songs. But I think this can be labeled an acoustic rock band because almost every song is primarily built around acoustic guitars and is always way to the forefront in the mix. And unlike most acoustic bands, these guys flat out rock. This is one of those albums where every song is so outstanding that it nearly kills you when a song comes to an end. Luckily, the one that follows is almost always just as good, again invoking a sense of dissatisfaction as each ensuing song comes to an end.

Although I don't dislike a single cut on the album, several especially grab me. I love the energy and driving force of "So Says I," which is one of the more "plugged" cuts on the album. I'm equally taken by a beautiful low-fi number "Saint Simon," that sounds like it could come out of the 1960s, a sort of blend of Love and the Kinks. Another song I have trouble getting past (because I keep hitting the replay button) is "Turn a Square," which just grabs me every time I listen to and won't let go of me. I could add the first cut on the album, "Kissing the Lipless," but really, I like every song on the album.

I do not know The Shins' earlier album, OH, INVERTED WORLD, but I have been both delighted and shocked that many fans of that album are disappointed in this one. I'm shocked because I have trouble getting over how good this one is, and delighted because it means that there another great Shins album for me to get my hands on.
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By A Customer on October 31, 2003
Format: Audio CD
I'll start out with a disclaimer: for people who heard Oh! Inverted World, the Shins' brilliant debut, this isn't it. Of the ten songs on this album, only one would be at home on that album. Where Inverted World was tightly thematic, Chutes Too Narrow is expansive, broad, and diverse. Believe me, that's a good thing. The album meanders between poppy highs (Kissing the Lipless, So Says I, Turn A Square) and melancholy lows (Pink Bullets, Gone For Good), and hits all the ground in between. The Shins have expanded their sound dramatically. There are infusions from folk, rock, metal, blues, and the album slips effortlessly from jangling guitars to acoustic balladry to dream pop and back again, and belying subtle mastery at each.
Chutes Too Narrow is perennially playful, and you can always hear the thematic overtones of the 60's pop-rock they are so often compared to, but at every turn, the songs provide you with inventive new takes on old devices. The album maintains a dichotomy; most of the music is played on upbeat chords, but the lyrics tend to the the darker side ("I know I've got this side of me / that wants to grab the yoke from the pilot / and just fly the whole mess into the sea," sings Mercer in Young Pilgrims). It still comes off as an upbeat album, though, and the closing song, the slow, dreamy, gorgeous "Those To Come" leaves the album on a happy, if slightly bittersweet, note.
All in all, Chutes Too Narrow is one of the best rock albums of the year--it's inventive, catchy, tuneful, and intelligent. You can't go wrong.
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Format: Audio CD
Many an indie rock fan fell in love with the Shins' 2001 debut, "Oh, Inverted World." They seemingly burst on to the scene completely formed, already possessing a sound uniquely their own (they've been together for almost a decade). On "Chutes Too Narrow," the Shins continue to cultivate a reputation for excellent songcraft, though this album provides a slicker production value and a different bass player (Dave Hernandez of Scared of Chaka replaces Neal Langford). Their first album was certainly characterized by a certain sound--one full of driving drum beats, melodic guitars, neat synth effects, and unforgettable vocal harmonies.
On "Chutes Too Narrow," the Shins part ways with that sound to a degree, offering a far more versatile collection of tunes. Some of them, including, 'Gone For Good,' 'Young Pilgrims,' and 'Pink Bullets,' are both acoustic and decidedly twangy. Others, such as 'So Says I' and 'Kissing The Lipless,' are more akin to the sound of the original record, complete with lovely harmonies and unbelievably catchy vocal hooks. This record is markedly different from the first one, but they somehow manage to keep grasp of what makes them The Shins. Whatever your tastes, it is difficult to deny that the songwriting on this album is both well thought out and a sign of excellent pop sensabilities. "Chutes Too Narrow" is a worthy successor to the band's acclaimed debut, hinting that this group will leave its mark both on indie rock history and in the creative minds of future artists--many would argue that they already have.
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