After becoming pop culture darlings, The Shins have waited three years to drop another album, and it’s paying off with a more highly-evolved collection of celestial pop/rock. Their third album, Wincing the Night Away, is more serious, yet more spirited in ways than their previous releases. Modern lounge sounds, slick jaunts, and old-fashioned stomps make this another eye-opening effort. There’s an inherent coolness mixed in with all the fun, like what a Red Bull & Vodka secretly dreams of having. The Shins will surely groove their niche in indiedom even further, as Wincing the Night Away calmly treads the line of pop, which translates for a variety of fans, even outside Hollywood.
With a forward-leaning, airy romp, The Shins kick off the album with that makes space travel seem like a lot of fun. "Sleeping Lessons" starts with an echoed harp and vocals as distant as Neil Armstrong’s. Then it hits the boosters and chugs into an accelerated acoustic flight. It’s like a futuristic hoe-down that we have to look forward to.
The Shins’ West Coast essence, though, is their bread & butter. Their surf-pop wave rolls strongly on sunny, feel-good rhythms, smooth guitar currents, and bubbles of post-effervesence. "Phantom Limb" is a smooth head-swinger with hit-making "ooh-ah-ooh"s. "Australia" bounces along on shiny guitars, crooned vocals, and even a banjo. The Baby Beach Boys use their strength well to push their envelope without losing elasticity.
The band uses tons of production effects brilliantly throughout the album. There’s a deep, watery texture to a few tracks, especially "Red Rabbits", with such fluid orchestration and some near-gurgling vocal effects. Vacuous drops splash the acoustic dock-sitter, "Black Wave". There’s a traveling moonlight quality to "Girl Sailor". At some point in listening to this album, you will inevitably envision the ocean.
The Shins are the slash between pop/rock. They’re not silly by any means, just professional and as friendly as a neighbor. The acoustic/electronic balance is perfect to fuel indie togetherness, and the rhythms vary between dancey and poignant. They’re all-invasive. Their indie media darling alert level just went red. Again.