Archive for February, 2007


Beauty and [indie] chic geek

Few are going to discover The Shins through this blog, so persuasive circumstances must be afoot as to why I’m choosing to write about the band’s newest, Wincing the Night Away. Most who follow music enough to know about this site (and know the right people to know this blog) have likely been hearing and reading about The Shins for years, and already formed an opinion. Thanks to Garden State too, they’re expected to change your life. The reason I’m writing is that Wincing is unexpectedly the band’s finest hour, and represents the four-piece’s ascension from indie pop to popular music writ large, in the vein of the best music groups of the last two decades. This is the most beautiful album by a rock band since R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People. I never expected such an album from The Shins. It’s beautifully performed, beautifully recorded, and beautifully produced. It sounds sublime through earphones, but really deserves a full stereo, at it’s highest, neighbor-friendly volume. Still, your neighbors deserve some kulture. The transformation of lead singer James Mercer’s voice is reminiscent of what took Michael Stipe of R.E.M. nearly a decade, to go from reluctant, star-crossed lead singer to confident crooner. At the band’s sold out performance in Denver at the Fillmore, Mercer even confidently took the mic between songs, sending the outspoken, often annoying, keyboardist Marty Crandell to the back of the stage. Amen. The band’s performance was also as beautiful as this album.

The Shins’ second album, Chutes too Narrow, was fine by my standards, although I found it a bit muddled in parts. I thought “Gone For Good,” was one of the band’s finest moments, an album track I could listen to repeatedly for hours as its melodies happily pitter-pattered through my head. Wincing is a near album’s worth of such beautiful, jaunty pop perfections. The opening vocals of “Red Rabbits,” following its 50s-esque opening beats, is splendid and moving. Mercer’s confidence is clear, and his poetic lyrics, as usual, are among the best today: “Hurled to the center of the Earth again/The place where it’s hot, love/You know, it hurts to breathe in/And the watershed you balance on is begging it/Well did he ever know/Will he ever know?”

If you’ve passed on The Shins thus far, I think now is the time to revisit our indie friends, who have produced such an astonishing album amid intense and unfair media expectations. Blame Natalie and her big headphones. I mostly thought the album could only disappoint, after the band appeared on the cover of every music magazine I subscribe to for months. Instead, a month since its release, I’m still slackjawed and ready to turn the volume up a little louder–it will still sound beautiful.


“Turn on Me”

“A Comet Appears”


The end of all things…


Every time this closing track plays randomly on the iPod or as an excellent finale to an album no one unfortunately ever heard, I think of other songs closing out records. Christian Lane, who once fronted the short-lived Chicago act Loud Lucy, penned “Understanding” for his solo joint, which could possibly be one of my all time favorite tracks to bring an album to its end. Maybe it’s the uplifting phrases uttered throughout the nearly four minute track, the light piano sprinkled in here and there with the faint drum pattern, or the da da near the end, but regardless, gravitating towards the repeat button is the norm…

Christian Lane-Understanding

Another go-to closer is the ultimate rhythmic body juker: Valetta Fanfares. Who thought a drumline could sound so hot? Vitallic obviously did.

Vitalic-Valletta Fanfares

Is there a perfect template to end a record?


Reachin’ back, sorta…


1998 does not even seem all that long ago, even if it was over nine years ago, but that is when I received a free promotional tape, yes cassette of the Milwaukee band known as Citizen King. After taking a minute to scour the Internet to see what people were saying about this foursome quickly yielded some comparisons to artists like Fishbone, Arrested Development, 2 Skinnie J’s (Wisconsin’s 311) and one that scares me some, Smashmouth. In the end though, I’m a sucker for a good pop song and when it’s quirky, it is even cherished that much more. Their 1999 record, Mobile Estates did produce a lead single that ended up becoming rather popular and even graced music channels back when those channels played songs, that being “Better Days (And the Bottom Drops Out)”. Realistically though, tracks 1-12 are lead singles. It’s unfortunate that this album didn’t produce more success, because frankly, this sound has as much punch with me as it did over nine years ago, and today I’m not the same music listener I was way back then. Damn.

Citizen King-Salt Bag Spill

Citizen King-Billhilly

Don’t be scared to comment how generic and cheap you think this may sound.




Thou Shalt Always. . .

Scroobius PipDan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius PipDan Le Sac

As we anxiously await Joe’s final installments of his glorious year-end review, I figured I’d throw a quick recommendation into the ring. 

Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip is the proper name of the act.  They both hail from the United Kingdom.  Dan Le Sac drips the beat.  Scroobius Pip drops the flow.  They immediately call to mind an English version of LCD Soundsystem.  Their intended lead single, “Thou Shalt Always Kill” is laced with a playful video-game track while Pip sounds off on those who mark out to current trends within pop culture.  It picks up where James Murphy left off on “Losing My Edge.”

A Letter From God to Man” begins with a Radiohead sample taken from the lead track off The Bends album which is quickly interrupted by Scroobius Pip’s announcement that the song is exactly as the title explains.  His cadence is choppy at first while the keyboard riff builds over the sample. 

These guys might draw comparisions to The Streets in the States because of Pip’s English accent and similar tone to that of Mike Skinner.   However, after listening to a few songs, I can only hope thou shalt not judge a book by it’s cover…

RIYL :: LCD Soundsystem, Beck, UK Hip Hop, or if your name is Steve Austin.

Please support them if you’re down.  They expect to release a single on Lex Records in April.

Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip :: Myspace
Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip :: Lex Records
Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip :: Thou Shalt Always Kill (live XFM Studio)
Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip :: A Letter From God to Man

Upcoming Shows:


February 2007