Oh, how I love me some guest blogging! Tonight, direct from the left coast, Berkeley's own Erin Lyman waxes nostalgic about her love affair with The Shins. Erin is the lead singer of Berkeley Social Scene and half of the spectacular duo Merisan. She's probably in five or six other bands too. She also has a rad haircut. And she cooks a mean plate of root vegetables. What I'm trying to say is you could all do worse than to call Erin Lyman your friend. Also, she wrote tonight's blog post. Ladies and gentlemen, Erin Lyman!
Title: Sea Legs
Artist: The Shins
Album: Wincing the Night Away
Four years after the release of 2003's Chutes Too Narrow, indie sweethearts The Shins delivered their third and final album under their Sub Pop contract (2001-2008). Wincing the Night Away was a highly anticipated album, as every track on Chutes was practically an instant indie-rock hit. How do you follow up your genre's equivalent to Thriller?
If I had not been so enamored by their previous album, I might have been able to enthusiastically commit to Wincing the Night Away. Even through slightly disappointed ambivalence, I did find several delicious tunes to savor, and despite my rumblings, this whole album is solidly enjoyable.
"Sea Legs" draws me in with simple yet interesting percussion arrangements and its catchy beat. Bass and keyboard float in and, soon enough, word-smith James Mercer delivers vocals just in time to remind me that this is an indie-rock song, and not going to be a dance groove. My hands rise from my lap to clap along, and my head bobs.
What really connects me to this song and keeps it in heavy rotation on my playlist are the haunting lyrics and the lush instrumental outro. While Mercer's lyrical style is much wordier than Ian McCulloch's, I find his delivery and tone to be reminiscent of Echo and the Bunnymen, and possibly a few other new wave favorites of the 80's. This song manages to blend a little of the cold-wave synth properties that make me love that genre with modern acoustic arrangements. It sounds fresh, yet feels like something I know and love all ready.
That isn't a quality that I am always looking for in a song, but am pleasantly surprised that after multiple listens over the years, I still find new things about the song that I haven't noticed before. Maybe it's an overlooked lyric that stands out, or maybe it's the dreamy Rhodes in the outro… We don't have to decide, we can just listen again.