The Shins

With its grade-school colors and cartoonish landscapes, the album art for the Shins’ second full-length seems cribbed from a game of Candy Land. Was the graphic artist on an ether binge? If so, he may not have been the only one. For much of Chutes, the sloppy-poppy Albuquerque, New Mexico, quartet seems 100 feet high and rising, strumming out ’60s-tinged love tunes like a barrel of Monkees with as much ridiculous color as that Partridge Family bus. “Kissing the Lipless” is a smart-alecky acoustic ballad with a screeched-out chorus that revels in its own stridency. “So Says I” is a jumpy raveup that playfully alludes to the medieval author Thomas More. But as the album progresses, a shy sincerity bubbles from beneath the ironic, retro arrangements. When vocalist James Mercer sings, I’ll try hard not to pretend/Allow myself no mock defense/As I step into the night (on “Saint Simon”), it sounds like he means it. By the disc’s final tracks, the ether-fueled Icarus flight is over, and the lads are crashing hard into the Molasses Swamp of introspection and melancholy, sinking into the pit where Alex Chilton vanished two decades ago.

Categories: Music