Our Top 10 Songs from The Shins introduces us to a rock band that proves that what you might call a side project can turn into your next big thing. The band was formed in 1996 by James Mercer initially as a side project to Flake Music, who were active in the 1990s. Within the release of their first albums, Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow, the band received critical acclaim growing its indie rock fanbase quite big. The band would have their major success and highlight of their career with their song “New Slang” featured in the film Garden State. A third album was underway, and thanks to the band’s jangly and melodic vibe, it became a major success for the band, peaking at number two on the Billboard 200. As if that was not enough, the 2007 album, Wincing the Night Away would earn a nomination on the Grammys for its sublime composition and quality songs.
In what he termed an artistic resolution, Mercer parted ways with the original lineup and signed with Columbia Records. The band’s hiatus would have its fourth album released almost five years later but surprising is that the album gained quite a positive reception having it tag along with some of The Shins’ best songs. Heartworms (2017) is the band’s most recent album, featuring quite some moving pop sensibility and a touch of indie appeal. Here are the top 10 songs from The Shins that bring the best out of this indie rock band.
#10 – Turn On Me
Ushering us in the top 10 songs from The Shins is “Turn On Me” from the band’s 2007 album, Wincing the Night Away. According to Mercer, this song is about falling out with a former colleague from Flake Music, his previous band. The song brings out their pettiness after the fallout with the former colleague, but it seems that he handles the fallout more civilly. However, he reveals that forgiveness is a perfect and only attitude to possess in such scenarios. After all, no one needs a lasting effect from such scenarios.
#9 – Saint Simon
Featured in The Shins’ 2003 album, Chutes Too Narrow, the song “Saint Simon” is among the songs that made this album quite a success, thanks to the sublime songwriting skills of James Mercer. Watching this song proves that the band’s success was not just Mercer’s songwriting skills but its tight and lively delivery of their compositions. Mercer proves to be the perfect frontman for the band, having his vocals so uplifting. The band’s backing vocals added to Mercer’s vocal glamour to bring out a unique song that will live to be a roadmap of the good old days by the original The Shins lineup.
#8 – Caring is Creepy
The song “Caring is Creepy” made quite a nice song for a starter in the band’s debut album, Oh, Inverted World. Featured in the 2004 film Garden State, the song “Caring is Creepy” made quite a mark in the band’s career, having it achieve commercial success, something that not all debut songs can do. Unlike the common perception that the song is about caring and love, “Caring is Creepy” is about a man coming out of the haze in this context, human existence, just to figure out it’s all a sham. Despite a controversial feel, the song’s message relates greatly with the album’s name, which probably helped the band’s debut songs sell.
#7 – Pink Bullets
“Pink Bullets” is yet another song worth its salt despite being a breakup song. You ought to love the mélange of the frontman Mercer’s vocals and Dave Hernandez’s guitar skills. The acoustic strums and steady electric swirls prove critical to the song’s mood adding glamour to the ballad. It is songs like “Pink Bullets” that led to the success of the 2003 album, Chutes Too Narrow.
#6 – Sleeping Lessons
Sometimes doing things differently can turn out to be the perfect way to go in a music career. And for The Shins’ this would be marked by the release of a song that has more philosophical vibes than most of the band’s songs, which possess an emotional appeal. Featured in their 2007 album, Wincing the Night Away, the song “Sleeping Lessons” brings an existential theme to the listener. Here, Mercer encourages people to take advantage of their free will and breaking free from absolute systems. Again, quite strong, but with a massive fanbase, it was quite certain that tons of people would buy the existential ideas from the song to apply to their lives.
#5 – Australia
Featured in the band’s album, Wincing the Night Away, the song ushers in some of the best songwriting skills by Mercer. The song is one of the soundtracks of the Xbox 360 game Project Gotham Racing 4. Despite its name, the song “Australia” has no reference to Australia at all. Nevertheless, the song received some positive reception even by critics having it elevate a newfound expressive range and confidence in Mercer’s voice.
#4 – Phantom Limb
Yet another release from their third album is the song “Phantom Limb” as its first single. Mercer described “Phantom Limb” as a hypothetical fictitious story of a young lesbian couple in high school. The couple seems to have been dealing with tons of negativity they received from their small hometown. However, like some of the ballads reviewed in this list, the song’s title appears not on the lyrics having the term “Phantom Limb” used as a metaphor for an odd disconnection.
#3 – The Riffle’s Spiral
“The Riffle’s Spiral” can be simply described as a depiction of terrorism in a three-minute song. Meyer showcased his skills in songwriting when he had this song bring out the theme of the futility of war. In the song, you can feel the little value placed on human life due to the petty and trivial interests put upon the masses by political, corporate, and even religious leaders. Despite the lineup change, which left Meyer alone from the original lineup, the song brought in some new vigor too strong not to fall for.
#2 – Simple Song
Featured in the band’s album, Port of Morrow, the song “Simple Song” is inspired by The Shins’ journey since they started their music career in the mid-90s. While the song was written during the production of their album, Wincing the Night Away, Mercer would wait till 2012 to release the song. In some way, Mercer admits that the song touches on Crandall and Sandoval leaving the band, but it’s more about coming from a small town, Albuquerque.
#1 – New Slang
And now to The Shins’ highlight of not only their album, Oh, Inverted World, but also their music career is the song “New Slang.” Inspired by his hometown and experiences in his late 20s, the song’s lyrics are fueled with confusion and angst, having Mercer meet himself disconnected from his past. In some way, “New Slang” is the band’s affecting song, featuring a mid-tempo folk tune with a falsetto melody. The song’s success cannot be told better than having it featured blatantly in the 2004 film Gard
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