Release Date: January 23, 2007
Label: Sub Pop
Wincing The Night Away, The Shins’ third full-length, follows two brilliant albums chock full of perfect indie-pop hooks and jaunty playfulness. So, why do they sound so dour now? Wincing opens up with the languid Sleeping Lessons, which with its prog overtones takes far too long to get going. It’s a taster of what’s to come.
While punchy hooks are still to be found (see first single Phantom Limb), they are often buried deeper this time around. For every Australia and Sea Legs, which hearken back to the band’s in-your-face pop songwriting, there are two more Sailor Girl-s and Split Needles, tracks that float along nicely enough but fail to linger after they’ve finished. The problem is not the slower tempo that permeates the record. After all, those that have followed the band know that they can be just as hooky and effective no matter what the tempo. The letdown is really in the songs themselves. It’s as if they have been blunted, dulled slightly so that when stacked against their peers, they just don’t work quite as well.
Don’t get me wrong, Wincing The Night Away is not a bad record. After all, it is The Shins, and I’d take them over many indie bands any day. More than anything, the album’s a comedown from their last release. It sounds like the work of a band in transition. Working elements of prog and stadium rock into their sound will work eventually (lead singer James Mercer’s voice suits it perfectly), but it’s not quite there yet. Once the guys figure it out, though, the next album should be crazy. B-
Key Tracks: Phantom Limb, Sea Legs, Australia