Sound — 10
James Mercer spent his "New Slang" McDonald's money on building a new studio in his basement and "Chutes Too Narrow" is the first Shins offering since. Maybe the familiar surroundings or the excitement of realizing he never has to leave the house is responsible for the snappier sound and consistent quality from track to track. Also, the Shins moved the voice up in the mix so it doesn't sound so buried. Good move.
Lyrics — 8
Mercer jams some tricky syllables into his lyrics which at the very least comes across as wholly original. At best, Shins lyrics evidence intelligence and wit, without the does-this-song-mean-anything? non-sequitors that decorate Pavement, certain REM and early Beck songs. At worst, the lyrics make you wonder if Mercer's willingness to break out the Lit professor vocabulary demands an editor. In a nutshell, sometimes it's too emo.
Overall Impression — 10
Chutes Too Narrow is a tight indie rock record. I think it's a definite leap forward from "Oh Inverted World," and it will be interesting to see what the Shins do next. "Gone For Good," "Kissing The Lipless," "Mine's Not A High Horse," "Saint Simon," and "Turn A Square," are simply great songs. Four other tracks are solid. The only weak tune is that sparse little acoustic ditty about the girl making tea in her underwear. Great image but he could have worked a little harder on the arrangement. But that's simply complaining for the sake of complaining. Overall it's great.