If you hadn’t heard of The Shins when Garden State came out in 2004, Natalie Portman made sure you knew their music would change your life. However, after only three albums keyboardist Marty Crandall and drummer Jesse Sandoval were fired from the band, and The Shins went on hiatus. James Mercer continued to produce music with Danger Mouse as Broken Bells, but there was a noticeable lack of The Shins in the world.
Now after a two year break, Mercer is reforming the indie rock outfit to play at the Outside Lands festival in August. The group is also currently working on a new album. In celebration of this exciting news, we decided to compile our list of the 10 best songs in the Shins’ short-but-accomplished career.
Concerned with an inability to let go and a debilitating fear of the future, “The Past and Pending” perfectly captures the feeling of being misplaced after a failed relationship. “Loiter the whole day through and lose yourself in lines dissecting love.” Who hasn’t found themselves doing just that at some point in their life?
“Phantom Limb” became the first single from 2007’s Wincing the Night Away. James Mercer described the song as “a hypothetical, fictional account of a young, lesbian couple in high school dealing with the shitty small town they live in.”
Though technically not a Shins original, this cover of a track from fellow indie favorite, The Postal Service, is a wonderful interpretation of an already beautiful song.
From the very beginning of Wincing the Night Away, “Sleeping Lessons” let the listener know that The Shins had matured from their humble beginnings with their most forward-thinking release. The theme of the song, as well as the album’s title, were inspired by the crippling insomnia Mercer was experiencing while working on the record.
With the band’s second album, Chutes Too Narrow, the band partnered with Built to Spill and Modest Mouse producer Phil Ek, marking a distinct evolution in the band’s sound. “Young Pilgrims” provides the album’s title with the line “I fell into a winter slide
and ended up the kind of kid who goes down chutes too narrow.”
“The Celibate Life” encapsulates much of the style found on the band’s debut album Oh, Inverted World – a jangly, lo-fi pop tune packed with poignant words and honest delivery.
With the pop sensibility of Brian Wilson and the lyrical integrity that can only be found in great indie music, “Saint Simon” is a definite milestone within the band’s catalog.
Zach Braff was such a big fan of The Shins that he included two of their songs on the soundtrack of his directorial debut, Garden State. From the band’s first album, “Caring is Creepy” served as an excellent introduction to the band.
This was the song Natalie Portman said would change your life. It’ll at least improve your day.
It’s amazing that this gem never made it onto a full-length LP, but “When I Goosestep” may be the best song the band has written.