You gotta hear this one song; it’ll change your life, I swear.
that’s what Natalie Portman says to Zach Braff in the film Garden State before introducing him to the Shins‘ “New Slang” (check out the scene here, if you haven’t seen it). it certainly changed the face of indie rock when they released their first album Oh, Inverted World in 2001.
“The Shins” started as the title of a song by frontman James Mercer’s former band, Flake Music, from the 1997 album When You Land Here, It’s Time to Return. that album is a wonderful prequel to the 1998 EP debut from the Shins, and you can clearly see the musical path Mercer took to get to Oh, Inverted World from there.
i spent a great deal of time on the public transit after the album’s release, and it became the go-to album of my daily commute. it was like being transported into my own minor-keyed world: solitary and strange, edgy and ethereal.
Chutes Too Narrow was released in 2003, and i had it on heavy rotation as well. “Kissing the Lipless” is one of my favourite songs to sing at the top of my lungs with the windows rolled up driving on the freeway… it’s liberating – don’t judge me.
2007 brought Wincing the Night Away, and then: nothing.
for four long years indie hipsters and indie-folk scenesters have been wishing for and wondering if another Shins album was ever going to materialise. well, here it comes, folks! and if the above song is any indication, it will be warm, dreamy and filled with Mercer’s otherworldly sounds and ghost-like harmonies. when you play the video for “September” above, do yourself a favour and read the lyrics that float across the screen as well.
- The Shins Share New Song, U.S. Tour Dates (pitchfork.com)
- James Mercer Says Shins-Decemberist Fake ‘Portlandia’ Band May Have a Future (spinner.com)
- The Shins – “September” (stereogum.com)