THE SHINS – Wincing The Night Away (Sub Pop)

This is New Mexico band Shin’s third album, and I find that I have somehow missed their second one. Not making the same mistake twice I snapped this up as soon as I saw it, knowing that the band can be relied on to deliver some of the best quirky pop sounds around. Opener ‘Sleeping Lessons’ does not disappoint, starting slowly but soon building to a tremendous chorus, and ‘Australia’, while taken at a slower pace, is just as catchy – in a cool indie-pop sort of way. Latest single ‘Phantom Limb’ is a glorious summery pop song, and if the Feeling can chart with this sort of thing there I don’t see why the Shins should not follow suit. ‘Sealegs’ is the biggest departure for the band yet – hip hop style beats on one of their songs. Despite the initial surprise, the songs itself is as melodic and well-crafted as anything else on here, and does not sound out of place at all. ‘Red Rabbits’ is an unusual ballad, utilising just electric piano and squelching beats on the verses, before the acoustic guitars and cello appear for the chorus. ‘Turn On Me’ is another of their seemingly effortlessly catchy pop songs, with the melody having just enough twists and turns to save it from being a commercial sell-out. ‘Black Wave’ is another acoustic piece, with James Mercer’s obtuse lyrics even more to the fore, and just as impenetrable as ever. ‘Split Needles’ has an off kilter beat and warbling synths that give it an out-of-this-world feel that makes its one of the oddest songs here. The album ends with ‘Girl Sailor’ and ‘A Comet Appears’, two more hook-laden tracks which emphasise the apparent ease with which the band can produce instantly memorable songs. If nothing else, hearing this album will prompt me to search out that missing second release, but I doubt if it will top this one – arguably their best collection of songs so far. Fans of the Feeling should give their American counterparts a try.