Wincing The Night Away Review

artist: The Shins date: 12/15/2008 category: compact discs
The Shins: Wincing The Night Away
Release Date: Jan 23, 2007
Label: Sub Pop
Genres: Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Pop, Indie Rock
Number Of Tracks: 11
Wincing is neither the clever genre recombinant exercise of their second album nor is it the perfect little self-contained universe of their debut.
 Sound: 9.3
 Lyrics: 9.7
 Overall Impression: 9.3
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reviews (3) 9 comments vote for this album:
overall: 9.3
Wincing The Night Away Reviewed by: FJL, on march 12, 2007
3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sound: The Shins have varied their style a bit with this new work of theirs, as seen from the genres of their tracks. For instance, we see the usual bouncy guitar sounds in Australia, yet we see a more ambient sound in Sea Legs, where they use a Hip-Hop-like sound. The band took a bit more time recording this new, longer album, which gave them, according to Mercer, "more time to develop their ideas". That being said, the album does resemble previous ones in certain aspects. For instance, we could see similarities between "Phantom Limb" and "Girl On The Wing", or between "Australia" and "New Slang", because of their backing chords, and because of their rhythms. This experimenting with different sounds, which Mercer said he is pleased with, is the result of several delays in the release date of this album, from mid 2006, to late 2006, and finally to early 2007. Mercer however insists it was well worth it, and I'm inclined to agree. It carries a refreshing sound in the new styles, since the unusual sounds in, say, Red Rabbits, mark a change of musical direction, in contrast with the previous album, which roughly followed the same trend as the first one. The album's first single, Phantom Limb, talks about a young lesbian couple's problems in their small town. Hernandez's guitar here plays a major role, giving the song its general tone. The single broke several band records upon release, such as being the first to reach US Top 100. All in all, this album brings a great mix of sounds to the table, and gives Mercer and the band a chance to experiment with different styles. In my personal opinion, the result is a very good blend of different types of music, and their best album so far. I do note, however, that at first it didn't grow too fast on me. Given time, it went out to be an excellent record overall. // 10

Lyrics: Mercer of course impresses us again with his incredible voice, albeit somewhat distorted in in some tracks, such as Sleeping Lessons. Nevertheless, he brings a very clear and well defined sound to the songs, making the lyrics very understandable. The lyrics of this album could be considered a full story, starting at Sleeping Lessons and ending at A Comet Appears. This story would be about a young boy who is in conflict with everything society represents, but can't explain it until the very end. The story would also mention concepts such as Nietzsche's bermensch ("born to multiply"), in classical Shins fashion. Lyrics are, as always, very well written, using accurate, albeit not wildly used terms, such as conundrum, spittle, etc. The lyrics at some points do seem detached from the music, for example, I think Pam Berry's lyrics don't correlate well with the sounds in the background. This is, however, personal opinion. Indeed, the sounds in Pam Berry do serve a purpose, which is to add an introduction to the next track, Phantom Limb. All in all, the lyrics in this album are very deep, and require lots of reviewing to see what Mercer meant in each one, and how it fits in the grander puzzle of the entire album. // 9

Overall Impression: This album is not as commercial-sounding as others of it's time, which is something to be expected from the band at this time. They focus on experimenting with new sounds and seeing what fits best, instead of what the public will most like, or what will sell more, or whatever. We have yet to see if, as the band develops, their albums will be shifted more towards the popular sound. This is very important, too, seeing as this is the band's last album at Sub Pop Records. Their change (or lack of change) in record labels may prove a turning point in their musical styles. Personal picks from the album are Australia, which I like for being reminiscent of their old sounds, especially the well-known New Slang, Turn On Me, for the unique guitar sounds, and the correct fusion of guitar and drums in it (and, of course, Mercer's voice), and Phantom Limb, for the general active, fast paced sound of the track. These choices are also the ones that may resemble previous albums the most. If I had to pick between the new, experimental sounding tracks, my pick would definitely have to be Sea Legs, with its firm beats and clear voice. There are, however, a few tracks which in my opinion aren't as good as I would expect from The Shins, but not because of the quality, but because I still haven't gotten used to this new sound. Girl Sailor comes to mind with this; maybe with some more time listening to the album I'll come to like it a bit more. What I love about it is that, when changing styles, they did it perfectly, but when using their old sounds, they did an awesome job, powering up what I most liked about the band in previous songs such as Caring Is Creepy and The Past And Pending, and in the general tone of their previous albums. I'd definitely want to keep a copy of this album, since it makes for a very good listening session, and songs such as Australia could cheer anyone up in a bad day, in the typical Shins fashion. // 9

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overall: 10
Wincing The Night Away Reviewed by: tdog52436, on december 15, 2008
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: The Shins have achieved mainstream success to an extent that few indie bands have. Wincing the Night Away is their 1st album since the pinnacle of that success, their being prominently featured in the movie "Garden State." More than one die-hard shins fan probably wondered if they could continue to create innovative, genre-hopping melodies that stuck with you and made you admire them. Well, The Shins managed to reinvent themselves a 3rd time (4th or 5th if you count Flake Music and/or Nature Bears a Vacuum.) 01.Sleeping Lessons: starts off slowly, then crescendoes with the rockin' sound James Mercer and the gang proved they could pull off on several tracks from Chutes Too Narrow. Maybe a little too slow to reach that payoff, but worth it. 9/10 02.Australia: super-catchy exuberant indie-pop, the kind of song music fans have come to expect from the Shins. Nice guitar solo, more proof that Dave Hernandez deserves more credit for the band's success, despite joining after Oh, Inverted World. 10/10 03.Pam Berry: easily the most maligned track on the album. Sure, its a throwaway, and arguably the shins' first, but it does its job of leading into Phantom Limb. 8/10 04.Phantom Limb: woah boy. This is the single standout track to end all standout tracks. A beautiful melody that convincingly argues superstardom isn't out of reach for this band. A great, simple acoustic-rock track. 10/10 05.Sea Legs: this track seems more experimental than anything, as we see the shins toying with carribean rythyms and stretching out the ending, leading to the shins longest number too date. Not their forte, as brevity is what makes shins tunes great, but still an enjoyable listen. 8.5/10 06.Red Rabbits: a heartsting-tugging melody, accompanied with beautiful violin and well-utilized pedal steel. Like nothing the shins had previously done before, and a wonderful slow-tempo delight. 9.5/10 07.Turn on me: very fun indie-rock, nothing too artistic or complex. Good for a solid rock-out session, complete with an awesome solo, which is great for beginning guitarists to learn. 9/10 08.Black Wave: arguably a throw-away, but too chillingly haunting to dismiss so easily. Like a less-cliche version of Your Algebra that shows the shins growth. 9/10 09.Spilt Needles: maybe my all-time favorite song. Songs like this have gotten the shins unfairly labeled emo by some. Not true, although dark melodies like this, plus a synth solo that will evoke an emotion from you, guaranteed, show that James and Co. could do this for 12 tracks, and not lose any fans. Amazingly underrated. 11/10. 10.Girl Sailor: another very classic shins tune, with hook-filled guitar solo, and great emotional build-up. A love song for the ages. 10/10 11.A comet Appears: every shins album to date has ended with a slow acoustic number. A little variety would be nice, although this is still a very soothing and fittingly moody end to a slightly sadder effort from the Alburquerqe boys (I'm pretty sure I spelled that wrong.) 9/10 // 10

Lyrics: No band has lyrics that compare to James Mercer's. His songs are chock-full of metaphors that seem to make no sense, but reveal deep truths about his topic of choice when you find out what exactly he's singing about. Of course, part of the fun with the shins is trying to figure out what Mercer actually is singing about, as many of his lyrics can be applied to many different things. My favorites in particular: Australia's anit-sexism lyrics disguised as a sarcastic fairy-tale, Phantom Limb's moving tale of 2 outcast small-town lesbians, Black Wave's creepily downbeat chants, culminating with the chillingly repeated "Looking on the brighter side", Spilt Needles biographical tale about the bands struggle with their label to stay true to themselves and their sound, and Girl Sailor's special spin on the traditional love-story lyrics, which beat those of Sea Legs, though those are good too. // 10

Overall Impression: This album was the soundtrack of my summer of 2007, and since buying it, it has remained my all-time favorite album. That makes my opinion very biased, but the fact that a 14-year-old boy feels so strongly about an album like this should be proof to you, that while the 1st few listens may underwhelm, once it's grown on you, it will hold a special place in your music-loving heart. They are frequently compared to bands like Arcade Fire and Modest Mouse, but I am enevitably dissapointed listening to them, as no band can truly claim to sound like the shins. Some fans still insist Oh, Inverted World is their best, but that may just be because it was their most accessible. I loved that one too, but nothing for me compares to the joys and great memories brought back with every listen to Wincing the Night Away. So please, buy this album, because more so than New Slang, it will change your life. Well, that was a cheesy and predictable way to end a review of a shins album, wasn't it? // 10

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overall: 9
Wincing The Night Away Reviewed by: PDMChubby, on march 26, 2007
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: The sound of The Shins is what always drew me to them. The acoustic work is unmatched, the drums are different and inviting, and, as always, the vocals are what make this album what it is. From when "Sleeping Lessons" takes off in the middle of the song, you can feel the excitement in the album, and you can't help but smile. It goes from there directly into "Australia", a happy song with great chords backing great vocals, possibly the best on this album. The album continues with songs like "Phantom Limb", the first single of the disc but by far not the best, "Girl Sailor", another one of the best tracks here, and ends with "A Comet Appears", a great song that's a little slower and different. No doubt The Shins have drawn away from their original style ("Black Wave", "Sealegs"), but there are still some gems on here for the original Shins fans ("Australia", "Turn on Me", "Girl Sailor"). The only thing I don't like about the sound is that it can get a little awkward and very different, which is not bad, but it doesn't sound like the Shins, and that is bad. Still great though, most likely one of the best of the year. // 8

Lyrics: There is no doubting that James Mercer knows what he's doing. His voice is one of the best in the indie world, and he uses it as such. They don't get tiring or repetitive, but rather get better as the album continues. His lyrics go perfectly with his voice and with the music itself. I suggest listening to "Split Needles", "Phantom Limb", and "Sealegs" for great examples of Mercer's voice, but the entire album holds great vocals, so check the entire thing out! You won't regret it. // 10

Overall Impression: These days, everyone seems like they're trying to change their style. Usually, the results are bad. Not for the Shins. This album drifts from their style, while still retaining the Shins feel. Everyone can enjoy this album: young or old, man or woman, emo or metalhead. There's something here for everyone, and the Shins continue to amaze me and they continue to convince me that they are one of the greatest bands today. The acoustic guitar work is perfect, the vocals are flawless, and the entire thing in itself, amazing. // 9

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