CD: The Shins, Wincing the Night Away


Now in his late 30s, Shins frontman James Mercer is caught in a nostalgic moment. His band's third album is practically a homage to the jangling, melancholy British music he fell in love with as a teenager: ghosts of Smiths and Cure songs shiver through the melodies, while on Phantom Limb and Sea Legs, Mercer could be using the Morrissey setting on a voice adapter, so accurately does he replicate those distinctive vocal trills and sighs. Not all of the album could have been recorded 20 years ago: the space-age gloops snagging at the chords in Sleeping Lessons and Red Rabbits, and the jagged doctored guitar in Split Needles, bring the sound up to date.

There's an enticing density of texture to the music, and Mercer's bleak lyrics are too obscure not to be intriguing. And yet, there's something about this album that militates against devotion: a coolness that dampens the indie-pop energy and threatens to leave listeners entirely unmoved.


Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

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