Chutes Too Narrow
It was hard to resist the feelings that Oh, Inverted World, The Shins’ debut album, radiated. It was a transformative experience that united a thousand disheveled college grads. I was not one of them. I much prefer Chutes Too Narrow, where front man James Mercer has given up his Brian Wilson pretensions to drink from the same spout from which Ted Leo takes his sustenance. The sense of fun that was so apparent on the Flake (pre-Shins) releases—and so conspicuously absent on World—permeates every corner of Chutes Too Narrow. There are more fast songs than slow songs, and “Kissing the Lipless” and “So Says I” contain completely credible rock-’n’-roll screaming. Overall, Mercer seems more comfortable with his voice. His melodies are more challenging, and he doesn’t bury his singing under double-tracking or organ washes, as he’s often done. Chutes is an album we can all get together for.