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.
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
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