An impossibly cute Natalie Portman saying, “You gotta hear this one song, it will change your life, I swear” is probably the way most of us were introduced to The Shins. Garden State is what The Shins would be if they were a movie: its contrast of light-heartedness and sadness is essential to their music, and once again the formula works.
Don’t be fooled by the misleadingly emo album title; The Shins are still a delightful combination of happiness and melancholy, albeit with a bleaker twist than 2003’s Chutes Too Narrow. The sound goes back to their wistful debut Oh, Inverted World, poppier than The Magnetic Fields but darker than The Apples in Stereo, and is fundamentally uplifting. Feedback and layered electronic experimentation have made Wincing the first record in Sub Pop’s history to chart in the Billboard Top 10. No wonder. The opener, ‘Sleeping Lessons’, is an understated dark gem, ‘Australia’ is pure chirpy delight, and the single ‘Phantom Limb’ is almost a poem.
The album’s beautifully bittersweet with an overall atmosphere that’s poetic and mesmerising. Life-changing they perhaps aren’t, but their enchanting melodies are still something to treasure.