Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

Sleeping Lessons

So today marks the first big new release day of 2007 and at the top of the pile has to be Wincing The Night Away, the new album from The Shins and the first since they blew up like Valencia, California. To say that there was a fair bit of pressure on the boys is probably an understatement – but now that record is out, what’s the word?

Well, it’s very Shins-y. Remember, this is a band whose breakout song was a gentle, strummy acoustic tune with cryptic lyrics – just because they can now play arenas (small ones), doesn’t mean they’re going to start writing foot-on-speaker anthems. Their strengths are the quirky, slightly introverted pop songs and in that they’ve delivered another solid set of such. There’s no “killer single”, so to speak, like “New Slang” or “Kissing The Lipless”, but as an album it hangs together very well. The production is a good deal fuller than on their previous records, particularly the reverb – it’s deep and rich and gives the whole album a consistent mood that’s probably intended to invoke feelings of sleep (James Mercer was dealing with bouts of insomnia while writing the record, hence the title) but to me the effect sounds more aquatic. It feels a fair bit darker than their earlier records, a fact that most interviews with Mercer will attest to and has a few more groove-driven numbers that sound like, well a band that specializes in being geeky trying to get funky. Not entirely successful but still charming.

And charming is pretty much the word that I’d use to describe the record as a whole. As a long-time fan, I’m pleased to see that after grabbing that brass ring, they put it on a shelf somewhere and then carried on doing what they were already doing. I wonder if their decision to stay the course instead of turning out some earth-shattering (if uncharacteristic) work will make some consider this record to be a disappointment? Reviews so far are favourable if not overwhelming and you know, that feels about right. The Shins are like musical comfort food and Wincing The Night Away are a big heaping pile of mashed potatoes and gravy. Mmm mm.

James Mercer talks to Metro about welcoming Eric Johnson to the band as the fifth Shin, Local Cut about playing Saturday Night Live, The Herald Sun about the influence of crackheads on the new record and The New York Post about the calming effects of home ownership. AOL is streaming the album this week and they’re on Letterman tonight.

Stream: The Shins / Wincing The Night Away
MP3: The Shins – “Phantom Limb”
Video: The Shins – “Phantom Limb” (MOV)
MySpace: The Shins

Other noteworthy releases today that I’ve either talked about already or probably will do so in the near future are available to preview on AOL. Check them out if you’re so inclined.

Stream: The Early Years / The Early Years
Stream: The Broken West / I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On
Stream: Of Montreal / Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Stream: Mew / Frengers

The Ted Leo & The Pharmacists show I mentioned going down May 2 at the Mod Club is now all confirmed and stuff. Pitchfork has full tour dates and the first MP3 from his new album, Living With The Living, is available to preview and it’s a scorcher. The album is out March 20.

MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Sons Of Cain”

Elbow’s Guy Garvey talks a bit to Drowned In Sound about their next record. DiS also reports that Maximo Park have completed their second record, entitled Our Earthly Pleasures. Billboard says the record will be out in North America on April 3.

Some shows – Exclaim! is throwing a party at the Phoenix on April 4 and Champion, Malajube, Chromeo and You Say Party! We Say Die! are all invited. You are too, but you have to buy a $15 ticket.

And on May 8, hailing from the UK, The Kooks are at Lee’s Palace, tickets $15. You know, every time I think I’ve heard the dumbest band name ever, I’m proven wrong.

Harp talks to Spoon’s Britt Daniel about the experience of scoring Stranger Than Fiction.

Guillermo del Toro discuss Pan’s Labyrinth with The AV Club.

24: Russians! Arabs! English arms dealers! Jack’s dad! Jack’s brother! Jack’s hot sister-in-law! Chopper Dave! It’s a 24 party and everyone’s invited. This week was mostly a scene-setting episode, establishing who’s what and where in the wake of last week’s big boom. It’s a shame they couldn’t get Donald Sutherland to play dad (though they did try) but the reveal that Jack’s brother is Bluetooth boy makes up for it. That’s awesome. Pretty obvious Jack is the elder one, the bag over the head? You know he’s done that before. I only hope their final showdown ends up in a noogie fight. And your 24 appendices this week – Information Leafblower declares Jack Bauer to be the new Chuck Norris (no, Kyle didn’t write them) and Gibson Guitars introduces the Kiefer-caster. It’s got real throat-ripping tone.

By : Frank Yang at 8:29 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Julie-s Trip says:

    I agree about Julie Doiron’s Woke Myself Up.
    Her new solo album is like an Eric’s Trip reunion of sorts.
    Doiron’s former bandmates play on 3 tracks and Rick White
    is pretty much on the whole record. It’s more uptempo & rocking,
    but still maintains the intimacy and confessional songwriting of
    her past solo works. Real good stuff! By the way Frank, have ya
    tried her Wooden Stars album? It’s very good as well.

  2. Thierry says:

    I’m enjoyed the ridiculous large number of people we have to hate or hiss at on this new season of 24: Islamic fundamentalists, that British explosives mercenary dude and his trashy girlfriend, Bauer’s brother, Chloe’s husband, Peter MacNicol’s character, Wayne Palmer’s annoyingly shrill sister, possibly Jack’s dad…Oh, and that Josh kid, Jack’s, ahem, "nephew"? I’m willing to bet a large sum of money that this is Jack’s son…

  3. Thierry says:

    I’m enjoyING

  4. Karl says:

    The hot sister-in-law is Rena Sofer, who has been hot in many things, most recently (and ironically) Heroes which runs against 24 in the States.


  5. Kevin says:

    In full agreement there with Thierry on the "nephew." He looks too much like Kim Bauer. Jack is a playa!

  6. Sam says:

    hmm. i’ll disregard your comment about them not getting Donald. how can they not with all the focus being on looking for his dad now? this is a great fucking twist that i was, thankfully, unaware of. can’t wait to see the reveal.

    btw, wasn’t Rena in 24 before? or am i mixing her series up?
    great ep.

  7. Karl says:

    BTW, James Lileks had a nice 24 update today as well, seeing your Bluetooth and upping it one: