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Chutes Too Narrow

The Shins

Release Date: 10.21.03
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Rock

90 Music-Critic Score
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The Solemn Warmth You Feel
by: bill aicher


I'll start this review out by saying that I haven't ever heard The Shins's first album, Oh, Inverted World. In fact, I hadn't really heard of The Shins except for the fact that one our writers had it on his "now spinning" list. So, as I lay my eyes upon the fantastic cover art of Chutes Too Narrowat a local record shop, my interest was piqued.


What lay inside, however, was much more than I could have expected, for Chutes Too Narrow is definitely one of the best releases of 2003, featuring superb songwriting, tightly knit arrangements, and a smattering of indie-rock sensibilities. From the indie rock opener, "Kissing the Lipless" to the steel guitar country riffing of "Gone for Good" there's a sense of musicianship here that melds itself into bittersweet perfection of the craft of making a song.


Most notable, however, is The Shins' penchant for writing a hook without bashing the listener over the head with it. Songs like "So Says I" and "Mine's Not a High Horse" bubble over with an understanding of pop songwriting and the importance of a well-placed vocal harmony. Yet, the highlight of Chutes Too Narrow remains the surprisingly naked "Young Pilgrims." The album's only fully acoustic solo piece, it's also Mercer at his most vulnerable, with lines like "I was raised to / gather courage / from those / lofty tales so tried and true / and if you're able / I'd suggest it / 'cause this modern thought / can get the best of you ..." dotting its rather introspective landscape.


If you haven't yet heard The Shins, I'd suggest you do as I did and just go pick up a copy. Trust me, if you're a fan of well-crafted indiepop, there's not much worse you could do. And while you're at it, pick up Oh, Inverted World. It's on my list, even though I haven't heard that one yet... but at least now I know The Shins could hardly disappoint. 10-Jan-2004 8:50 PM