The Shins mature on Wincing the Night Away
I used to be enchanted enough to think The Shins only wrote songs for me. After a long wrestling match with reality, I accepted the fact they have no idea who I am or why I think their music is significant. Our imaginary relationship gets complicated from there.
When artists create work for only you, each piece tailored specifically to your needs and desires, is it impossible to hate it? Probably not. Honestly, I was worried about Wincing the Night Away. Did I place too much pressure on my imaginary best friends? Did I expect too much? Will the end result meet my desires?
It has been a recurring trend in the last year or so for me to be excited about new records only to have my hopes shattered by dreadful mediocrity. I cursed at the heavens, “Please don’t happen again! Not with The Shins!” I mean, I wasn’t expecting a proverbial indie-rock masterpiece—another Loveless or another In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, but I was just terrified of being let down…again. So, I listened.
On Wincing the Night Away, James Mercer has evolved and matured in his songwriting and continues to perfect his craft. He forces the listener to be sympathetic to his emotions. I have never been able to listen to The Shins and make one of their songs my own—I always feel voyeuristic, looking in on a world and a life I have no business looking at and always coming away more heartbroken (or uplifted, whichever applies) than I was when I started.
The Shins have matured seemingly without effort. Mercer’s craftsmanship remains fundamentally intact; the phrasing and structure that define their sound is still prevalent while the band, musically, extends into new territory. The sound is easily accessible and The Shins are free of the uneasiness that may accompany other bands attempting to broaden their sonic horizons. Without paying too much attention to their own significance, The Shins are confident and particular, structuring a darker record without falling into a trap of depressing tunes. The melodies hang and swirl, mixing unassumingly with the textures and intricate trappings of accompaniment forming a tapestry of sound that is both aurally exciting and sonically pleasing.
The album is darker and belongs, as the title implies, in the night—remaining contemplative and staying true to the characteristics that have made The Shins so admirable to their fans, but do not expect to be uplifted.
Maybe I was wrong before: The Shins do write songs for me, because they write songs for everyone. There is absolutely no way they could have known what I personally was interested in hearing, but to quote the new record, “…you had to know that I was fond of you,” and they refuse to disappoint.