Review - Chutes Too Narrow

Artist: The Shins

Following up their revelatory debut "Oh, Inverted World," The Shins broaden their horizons sonically without losing their spot-on sense of pop melody. If there was a complaint about that 2001 full-length, it was how their richly realized, infectious psych-pop tended to blur texturally across the album. While still full of jangle, swirling keyboards and churning acid-rock pop majesty, the songwriting on "Chutes Too Narrow" is better, producing several standout tracks. The album opens with the rushing rave-up "Kissing The Lipless," which would've fit perfectly on the previous album, and "Mine's Not A High Horse," a subtly unusual Britpop-flavored track whose strummed guitar and synth sweep sounds like Dream Academy delivered over bubbling, complex, near-breakbeat drums. Like much of the album, it's intriguing without calling undue attention to itself, letting the listener's ear discover the intricacy of the arrangements. "Young Pilgrim" is the answer to last album's "New Slang," a finger-picked gem of delicate guitar that, coupled with the buzzing new wave of "Fighting in a Sack," is the centerpiece of the album. The former employs a gentle jangly sway, the latter a music-hall bounce, each packing enough hooks in under three minutes that it's near-impossible to escape their barbed embrace. While not as instantly winning, "Pink Bullets" is a dark-horse challenger for best track, a haunting shuffle that recalls The Hollies riding light strum and organ sustain like a horse out of town.


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