Garden State had to be a blessing and a curse for The Shins. On one hand you have Natalie Portman claiming the band’s song, New Slang, will change your life which is some pretty lofty praise. But on the other hand, it sets up almost unreachable expectations and failed to, at the very least, change my life. Although it has been three years since Portman’s declaration and four since the band has last put out an album and now is set for their biggest release Wincing the Night Away, a title that may come from singer and guitarist’s James Russell Mercer bouts with insomnia which could also be credited to being the inspiration for the opening track Sleeping Lessons.
Whereas most bands would have tried to go more mainstream after all the hoopla surrounding the exposure in Garden State, The Shins not only decided to stay with indie label Sub Pop instead of signing with a major label like many of their peers in recent years, but the ended up making an album more experimental then in the past. Wincing the Night Away is even darker at times than previous album too which, aside from the insomnia, could also have been inspired by Mercer’s house being robbed including the masters of New Slang. In a bit of irony, that song was licensed for a McDonald’s commercial, the money Mercer used to buy the house where the masters were stolen.
It’s not surprising that insomnia is a major inspiration for the album because it is at it’s best when you are listening to it at night with little light as the synthesizers pour over you while you teeter in half awake, half dream territory. The best here is the soothing Phantom Limb, the funky Sea Legs, and the closer A Comet Appears which is the most stripped down song here and a good way to end the album. But don’t expect any song on Wincing the Night Away to change your life, unless you are on whatever drugs Natalie Portman’s character was on during the Garden State.
Song to Download - A Comet Appears
Wincing the Night Away gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.