The Shins - Wincing The Night Away
The Shins had their work cut out for them with the release of the 'Wincing the Night Away'. Their previous album, 2004's 'Chutes Too Narrow', topped many critics' Best of the Year lists, and was given a lucky dose of both marketing push and indie credibility by featuring heavily in the film Garden State. It's good to know that all that success hasn't gone to their heads. Sure, they've managed to bring in heavyweight producer Joe Chiccarelli, who's worked with both U2 and Beck, but they're still signed to Sub-Pop Records and, crucially, they're still writing great songs. In fact, 'Wincing the Night Away' is, in some ways, a better album than its predecessor. It's certainly bigger and more symphonic than 'Chutes Too Narrow'. Album opener 'Sleeping Lessons' starts off relatively low-key, with a simple looped keyboard before building to an explosive finish. First single 'Phantom Limb' is their catchiest song yet, packed with reverb-rich vocals and sunny, Beach Boys-inspired harmonies. Throughout, the Shins seem more comfortable and willing to take advantage of their no-doubt bigger recording budget, from the layered, 1960's-style American pop of 'Turn On Me' to the sound loops and samples of 'Spilt Needles'. 'Wincing the Night Away' is the sound of the Shins spreading their wings, and it positively soars.