Wincing Garden State Away

By Aaron Brown

It’ll change your life.

With those words, millions of teenage indie-rockers in training, myself included, suddenly became instant fans of The Shins. While everyone lied and attempted to claim they had always owned previous albums “Oh, Inverted World” and “Chutes Too Narrow”—again, myself included—the album sales clearly show that the film “Garden State” did for The Shins what the television show “The OC” did for Death Cab for Cutie; instant popularity among suburbanites, record sales through the roof, and potential indie-decredification.

Without bringing Zach Braff into this article—he inexplicably inspires vulgar words amongst members of the Arts Staff here at The Mac Weekly—his built-in advertisement for the Albuquerque-based mellow rockers catapulted The Shins to legendary status. Yet instead of capitalizing on their newfound stardom, The Shins disappeared from the limelight, waiting a full three years from “Chutes Too Narrow” to produce their latest work.

The Shins released their third album, titled “Wincing the Night Away,” on Sub Pop Records last month, and are currently supporting the album on an American tour that recently sold out First Avenue. The release of the album produced much fanfare; how will the Shins expand on their suddenly hyper-inflated image?
As difficult for me as this is to admit that I think a great band has taken a risk and gone astray, something about the new album ruffles my feathers a little too much. While I commend The Shins for taking advantage of their popularity, and the public’s attention span by attempting to explore new musical territory, the tweaks in style sound a little too far removed from what I enjoyed about The Shins in the first place. Many of their new songs have a slower tempo, accompanied by a quieter sound and a duller approach.
I feel like I’m missing the fire in the belly that existed on previous songs; I feel a little disconcerted and surprised about missing elements, like their uniquely toned harmonies, anyone remember last album’s “A Call to Apathy?” and the newly acquired strange lo-fi electronica sound exemplified in the awkwardly spacey song “Sea Legs.” This strange spaceyness makes some tracks sound suitable for a shady tiki bar, a far cry from the relaxing “New Slang,” off of The Shins’ debut.

Will “Wincing the Night Away” change your life? Probably not. But it does make for a fair installment.