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The Shins are an indie pop group consisting of singer and guitarist James Mercer, keyboardist/guitarist/bassist Martin Crandall, bassist/guitarist Dave Hernandez, drummer Jesse Sandoval, and keyboardist/singer Eric Johnson of the Fruit Bats. They formed in 1997, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as a side project of Mercer (previously of Blue Roof Dinner) and Sandoval, who were both members of the lo-fi musical group Flake Music (formed as Flake 1992). The band was signed to Sub Pop following a successful tour in 2000 with fellow college-rockers Modest Mouse.
Their 2001 debut album, Oh, Inverted World received near-universal critical acclaim, causing many critics to predict a mass wave of Beach Boys-inspired bands. That wave never truly came, but the Shins enjoyed a rapidly expanding fanbase, and even saw their music featured on a McDonalds advertisement. That may have been artistic suicide for them, had it not been that the song featured ("New Slang"), included the lines "New slang/when you notice the stripes/the dirt in your fries," as well as "God speed all the bakers at dawn/may they all cut their thumbs/And bleed into their buns/'till they melt away."
The band moved from New Mexico to the "indie rock capitol" of Portland in 2002. Their much-anticipated followup, Chutes Too Narrow, was released in October of ‘03 in the U.S. and a half-year later across the pond to gushing reviews that matched if not exceeded their debut effort.
Ironically enough, their poppier more-accesible sophomore release would be overshadowed by the prominent appearance of two Inverted tracks, "Caring is Creepy,” and "New Slang" in the Zach Braff’s dramedy Garden State. Particularly, "New Slang" received a significant callout as the movie's heroine, Natalie Portman, slips a pair of headphones on Zach Braff and proclaims "…this song will change your life".
The film and soundtrack brought “indie” to the wider twenty-something audience and created a comparably massive fan-base for The Shins as well as a number of other artists featured on the album. Namely labelmates Iron & Wine, who cover Sub Pop's The Postal Service. (Such Great Heights)
More recently, The Shins roster has expanded to include Eric Johnson of The Fruit Bats (Sub Pop). In addition, Anita Robinson of Viva Voce has appeared on stage and on-record lending female harmonies to the new single "Phantom Limb."
Their newest endeavor, entitled Wincing The Night Away, was released on January 23, 2007. The album leaked on October 20, 2006, and was also put up for purchase on iTunes two weeks prior to its release on January 9, 2007. The album was taken down a day later. Produced by Phil Ek in Seattle, Wincing is a return to the more dreamy, psychedelic, layered sound of Inverted but retains Mercer's penchant for romantic, allusionary lyricism and inventive pop progressions.
Wincing debuted spectacularly on the Billboard charts at #2, selling 118,000 copies, leading to both the highest debut in the band and their label Sub Pop's history.
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