Genres (Wikipedia’s version): Indie rock/alternative rock/folk rock/dream pop/indie rock/surf rock
Genres (my version): Sunshine rock/prose rock/jangly twistiness/polite rage/sardonic pop/dappled & weird/the-Cure-meets-the-Beach-Boy/deceptively harmless alternative rock/gossamer sex
James Mercer is a poet. He and the Shins have been writing the music of my soul since the early 2000’s. Oh my goodness, if only I didn’t have a one-track mind, if only I could listen to the Shins’ gorgeousness AND type this up at the same time, I would. I would do that so hard.
Magic. This is the word that drifts lazily into my head when I listen to James Mercer’s wavering falsetto ride waves of jangling guitars. Their sound is so warm, so affecting – it’s almost threatening.
They sound like if the Kinks and the Beach Boys all had an orgy, somehow got pregnant, raised their baby in north California amongst redwoods and dappled sunlight, and that baby grew up and moved to Portland, Oregon, where all the weirdos are.
And this really is not the best part, oh no. The best part is, they don’t sing about happy things. No, these guys sing about alienation, jadedness, being awkward, yearning, isolation, rage… All the while using beautiful, sardonic lines like ‘I surrender all my gall in a song of modern love‘. How’s that for style?
Dry, introspective sunshine. That’s what these guys are. Man, I am so in love.
I’ve been in love since Natalie Portman first told Zach Braff “this song will change your life“. Hell, I’ve been in love with Natalie Portman since Natalie Portman first told Zach Braff “this song will change your life”. (If you don’t know know what the hell I’m talking about, click here).
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a dried-up, old proto-hipster from the 2000’s who’s got nothing better to do than squeal with delight like a baby when she puts on her earbuds. All I know is that this band has shaken me to my very core, and that my heart will always hurt and rejoice when I hear the Shins.
A couple of my favorite tracks. My God, it was so hard to choose:
Caring Is Creepy, Oh, Inverted World, 2001 – This is pretty much as angry and ‘heavy metal’ the Shins will ever get.
Girl Sailor, Wincing the Night Away, 2007 – Truly lovely. Imagine, when you are listening to this song, that you are a world-weary girl who’s had her heart broken too many times, and James Mercer is your dear guardian angel who has seen you crash and burn all your life, and is gently telling your imperfect heart that it’s okay to make mistakes, and to rest your defeated soul for a little while.