The Shins remain fresh; will delight old, new fans alike

The Shins are trying to avoid failure. After the immense success of their indie bombshell, “Chutes Too Narrow,” they’ve been pacing themselves, carefully molding what would be their most anticipated album to date, “Wincing the Night Away.”

Their third studio album, nearly three years in the making, is far from typical and will probably throw off countless expectations. The 11 track CD is full of catchy, popcorn tunes, but also has its fair share of experimental, trend-setting tracks that help elevate the album beyond the minimal approach utilized in the first two efforts.

Songs like “Australia,” “Phantom Limb” and “Turn On Me” sound like classic Shins, while tracks like “Sleeping Lessons,” “Sea Legs” and “Split Needles” come off as irrational, yet textured, gonzo efforts. As it is, the album is better for it.

Lead singer/songwriter James Mercer shows noticeable growth, vocally and lyrically, on “Wincing the Night Away.” His charmingly stoic voice is still intact, but something curiously mysterious has crept up on him. The fact that I can’t put my finger is insignificant. If it works, don’t question it.

The fact that “Wincing the Night Away” is not “Chutes Too Narrow” might scare off some of the more hardcore Shins fans, but for those venturing into Shins territory for the fist time, it’ll prove to be a nice treat. Because, somewhere along the road to rediscovering their sound, The Shins found a way to stay true to themselves and remain fresh and refined at the same time. “Wincing the Night Away” is a testament to their staying power.

Danny Gordon can be contacted at