VIP – Judith Jamison

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Dancer VIP: Judith Jamison – Alvin Ailey former Artistic Director

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Music Review – The Shins, Wincing the Night Away

Submitted by on 10 Jul 2007 – 3:51 PM Comments

OK naysayers, this might not be the beach side folk of Oh, Inverted World, nor the ecstatic indie-pop of Chutes Too Narrow, but wouldn’t it be boring if a band as great as The Shins kept on repeating themselves, however gloriously their formula has consistently fared in the past? The Shins, and particularly songwriter/guitarist/ vocalist James Mercer, would be doing their fans a disservice and his talents an injustice to make more of the same when there is evidently much new territory to be explored. Sure, their signature sparkle is embedded like diamond dust in each song on Wincing the Night Away – this is, after all, The Shins we’re talking about. But with age comes growth, and Wincing is a palpable testament to the maturation of this band. On opener “Sleeping Lessons,” a dreamy, arpeggiated keyboard slowly fizzes into a rollicking romper, each layer of sound punctuated to perfection. Mercer explores the abstract with a poet’s eye: “Eviscerate your fragile frame/And spill it out in the ragged floor/A thousand different versions of yourself.” “Sleeping Lessons” stakes out a recurring theme found throughout the album: the rolling, winding dervish that one’s thoughts become in the absence of sleep.

On “Sea Legs,” an acoustic rocker that segues into a psychedelic lounge permutation, The Shins dip their toes in the progressive; the result is spellbinding and unlike anything we’ve heard from them before. On the meditative and melancholic “Black Wave,” the band exposes a much darker undercurrent, lulling the listener with its siren song and then pulling them down into the water. Elsewhere, “Split Needles” again finds The Shins exploring dark territory, where synths hover over a menacing bass line, a nice counterpoint to Chutes’s upbeat “Mine Is Not A High Horse.” Lyrically, it drives the amnesiac theme of the record home with lines like, It’s like I’m pressed on the handle bars/Of a blind man’s bike/No straws to grab, just the rushing wind/On the rolling mind.”

“Phantom Limb,” the album’s kick off single, is the only clunker on the album. Too long to generate the momentum needed to stand up to past classics like “Pressed in A Book”, “Phantom Limb” sounds like five minutes of rehashed Shins material that should have been discarded in favor of the wealth of brilliant stuff surrounding it. Starved of sleep but certainly not ideas, Wincing The Night Away is a celebration of wide-awake nights, and yet another milestone for this thankfully Ambien-free band.

Bruce Scott