After returning to production duties on last year’s ‘Heartworms,’ sole remaining Shin, James Mercer, has gotten a taste for cutting and splicing. After a five-year gestation period, that album generally served up standard Shins fare; solid and dependable but no great leaps. It seemed that the formula for future Shins releases was set. Having allowed it to digest, however, Mercer has decided to revisit those 11 songs and shape them into something entirely different. Think ‘Let It Be… Naked,’ except instead of stripping things back, Mercer has slowed things down, sped things up and added more layers. There are a few gimmicks – the original track listing is flipped for no discernible reason, for example – but, by and large, this is an excellent companion to its older brother and suggests that Mercer might not be finished just yet.
‘The Fear,’ for instance, gets a makeover, catapulting it from predictable baroque pop territory right into ‘Let It Bleed’-esque R’n’B. Elsewhere, ‘So Now What’ is shorn of its sticky optimism and re-worked, using a studio full of synths, into something closer to Animal Collective, while the title track itself goes full Moroder. For the first time in a decade, James Mercer is experimenting. Not all experiments fulfil their aims, of course, and this is no exception. But at least it tries. In doing so, it’s made some breakthroughs, while its failures are at least interesting ones. And that, readers, is what it’s all about. Synopsis: this is what it should have sounded like first time around.
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