The Shins

Record Reviews

Phases and Stages

The Shins

Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop) All my other CDs hate the Shins' second album. If this were the high school prom, Chutes Too Narrow would be the girl everyone hates -- or wishes they could hate but really can't because she's just so nice and pretty and smart. These 10 songs, which the Albuquerque-bred quartet recorded in guitarist/songwriter James Mercer's Portland, Ore., basement, are the smartest, loveliest songs in recent indie rock history. Chutes is a yearbook of Whitman-esque contradictions: Here's the lonely, embittered young poet ("Kissing the Lipless"); snotty punk ("So Says I"); Kinks fan ("Turn a Square"); and the weirdo who wants to be a cowboy and pulls it off ("Gone for Good"). The album does indeed contain multitudes, which is what makes it such a balanced and beautiful listen. Every emotion is intense and genuine, and the musicianship is just as moving as Mercer's lyrics, from the pedal steel to Marty Crandall's goofy keys. And as anyone who witnessed the group's ACL Festival set can attest, this is a group that lives to make this music, and it's this purity of passion that helps the songs resonate and makes them the perfect prom date.

**** 

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