The Shins (above) make the kind of '60s pop rock that never existed, a brand of revisionist guitar glee that sounds like Crowded House just got its MFA. The band's Phil Ek-produced sophomore release, Chutes Too Narrow, is a guitar-driven party record, peppered with surprises like "Gone for Good," a country-tinged tearjerker filtered through British Invasion-era pop that could easily have been recorded by Wilco circa Summerteeth.
Once you get past the catchy melodies and bouncing beats, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter James Mercer's lyrics demand attention. Wise without being wise-assed, clever without being cloying, Mercer has a libretto that can turn a good-time romp like "So Says I" or "Fighting in a Sack" into a wordy boogie. While humor informs much of the lyrical content, the chuckles never detract from the sincerity and emotional urgency.
Live, the Shins promise a rollicking good time, tightly orchestrated and joyfully executed. On the roadhouse rocker "Turn a Square," Mercer wonders aloud: "Have I left my home just to whine in this microphone?" Maybe so, but with music this fun, we'll line up around the block to listen.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.