Shins | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe



The various incarnations and imitations of the Nuggets anthology have made it crystal clear that just about any band can come up with one great song. In fact, boxes of these fortuitous moments, captured on seven-inch vinyl by bands I've forgotten the names of over the course of the 80s and 90s, are taking up the floors of most of my closets right now. The members of New Mexico's Shins have been banging around in a variety of such acts for the last decade, and the core lineup has existed at various times as both Flake and Flakemusic. Earlier material, like 1998's Nature Bears a Vacuum (Omnibus), contains its fair share of catchy melodies, but the quartet's new album, Oh, Inverted World (Sub Pop), is their first release to transcend Nuggetry. James Mercer's singing has elicited a rash of Brian Wilson comparisons, which is understandable, especially when the rest of the group harmonizes with him--at which point Simon & Garfunkel and the Zombies also come to mind--but unlike the scads of Beach Boys pretenders on Elephant 6 (and on various E6 pretender labels), the Shins have developed a calm, spacious sound of their own. The music never seems fussy, even when the arrangements carefully employ extra instruments like synthesizers and horns. From the ethereal acoustic ballad "Weird Divide," which sounds like a lost Association classic, to the stuttering psychedelia of "Girl on the Wing," the Shins' lush instrumentation and sublime vocal arrangements remain subservient to their killer hooks. I haven't heard a better indie-pop album this year. Friday, August 24, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. Earlier the same day, at 6 PM, the band will also play a free set at Reckless Records, 3157 N. Broadway; 773-404-5080.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David Ondrick.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment