The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow

Oh, oh, oh, Oh, Inverted World was nothing short of mind-blowing, which means the follow-up from The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow, is going to be under some pretty serious scrutiny. Does it deliver? Oh, oh, oh, yes. Track by track, note for note, each song is magnificent:

‘Kissing the Lipless’

Half-sung, half-screamed (wailed?) choruses, upbeat kind of beyond belief, very, very exciting, beautiful and portentous. Gross title not worth further investigation.

‘Mine’s Not a High Horse’

Shins through doing Simon & Garfunkel? Yes, since this is where they should’ve been going all along: Echo & the Bunnymen. Shuffle-y toms and snare, finger-picked lead guitar. Vocals here proven much stronger than on Oh, Inverted World. Will have a hard time not just listening to this one over and over. Will get past that and eventually on to next song.

‘So Says I’

More traditional Shins fare here. But still more uproarious, as on the first track. This is a much better sound for them. Slightly more ‘60s retro stylings than before, but more refined. Flange on vocals very effective, not overbearing. Backup vocals a thrill here. Whoooooooo-ooooooo!

‘Young Pilgrims’

Fractured acoustic ballad with kooky key changes: What made you love the Shins in the first place. And here it is again. But trickier. Ahh! And there’s where the album title comes from… ‘I fell into a winter’s slide / and ended up the kind of kid who goes down chutes too narrow.’ Yes, that’s the stuff, right there.

‘Saint Simon’

A chamber-esque, Davies-inspired track, and the best song on the album (there will be many, one can be sure). The tiny drum rolls, the delicate vibes, the a cappella, the entire arrangement is utterly beyond what anyone could’ve expected this time around. If we can use the word ‘sublime’ seriously here for just a second we will: Sublime.

‘Fighting in a Sack’

Confusingly great power-pop. Apropos title, really. Great bridge with acoustic strumming, rapid, rapid, rapid vocals. Blarrrgh! Harmonica!

‘Pink Bullets’

Demure, pensive, and sultry. A cold-warm-cold ballad with a beautifully constructed choral melody, with more than enough in the lyrics department to make it worth it: ‘Over the ramparts you tossed / The scent of your skin and some foreign flowers / Tied to a brick / Sweet as a song / The years have been short / But the days were long.’

‘Turn a Square’

A total shift in mood into some welcome, good-timez rock ‘n roll. Nice Big Star-esque build-up in many places, showing much cohesion with the rest of the album—even the ballad-y numbers. Playing with different themes here. A little more crunchy…unexpected, great ending.

‘Gone for Good’

Country-ish, saddish tune reminiscent of the finest moments on Oh, Inverted World. Not pushing the envelope as far as on the rest of Chutes Too Narrow, but great, certainly great.

‘Those to Come’

Unexpectedly avant tune, Zen-like, a la ‘Moonlight Mile’ from Sticky Fingers in certain ways, droning, a departure. Is this the next album? Unsettling, yet lulling, a discomforting song altogether. Hard to believe it’s part of the same tracklisting, but checking again proves it’s so. Further listens prove it’s the perfect ending. It’s what you didn’t expect. They’re the Shins, and, despite the pleasing sensibilities of much of their music, at heart they’re really not going to make it easy for you. But they’ll make it all worth your effort.


Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack

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