A WEEK OF WINCING
Last week brought the first big music release of the year - The Shins' Wincing the Night Away. In this day of music leaks, it seems I was one of the last people with any kind of regular presence online to hear it. Yes, the new album has been the topic of discussion on the music blogs for months. But you know what? I like waiting for a record to come out and then immersing myself in it. Sure, I've heard a couple tracks on KEXP and "Phantom Limb" has been around even longer online. In the end, though, I'm glad I didn't have that anticipation and subsequent listening spoiled for me.
On first listen, I wasn't quite sure to make of it...the sound was a different one for them, most notably in the hip hoppish beats of "Sealegs." I knew I liked it but that was about the only impression. By the time I listened to it for the third time I was in love with it. Love. And just yesterday I bought a new portable CD player (mine had stopped being effective in early December) so I could let it all wash over me as I went to sleep last night.
I love how the band kicks into a raveup at the end of "Sleeping Lessons." I love the distorted guitar and keyboard that run through "Spilt Needles." "Sealegs" has a great beat and develops perfectly. The plunky keyboards of "Red Rabbits" and the more traditional "Australia" and "Turn on Me." The music and melodies are superb.
As for what it all means, I'm not quite sure. It's a more somber album lyrically (and that's even reflected in the music). I don't know that you can read the lyrics of one particular song and lock down a meaning. I think James Mercer writes in a more imagistic way, more concerned with a mood than a grand statement. That's not to imply he doesn't have anything to say, because I think he does. And he's great with opening phrases - "Hurled to the center of the earth again" ("Red Rabbits"); "This goose is cooked these tongues are tied" ("Turn on Me"); "I've earned myself an impossible crime/ I have to paint myself a hole and fall inside" ("Spilt Needles) - just to name three.
This is my favorite album right now and I just want to play it over and over and over again. Live inside it. Needless to say, you should pick up a copy too.