The Shins, Oh Inverted World (2001)

SP 550
Lettuce Flavored, BMI
USA

We would like to thank in no particular order: Modest Mouse, Zeke Howard, 764-HERO, Stuart Meyer, Shawn Rogers, Jonathan Poneman, Megan Jasper, Kristen Meyer, Tony Kiewel, all at Sub Pop, Robin Taylor, Ron, Ari, Ashley, Matt, Rose, Ryan Holmes, The Black Heart Procession, Love As Laughter, The Murder City Devils, Joe L., Mark Omnibus, Greg Brown, Joe A., the Van Dalens, Elyse, Darcy, Rob, Sheila, Ethan, everybody we’ve met and liked on the road, and all our families.
Special Thanks to J. A. Mercer for his invaluable assistance and support.

Every post from here on out won’t have a special dedication, BUT…I *did* pick a record I thought Bill Murray might appreciate, as it’s his birthday tomorrow. It was very nearly The California Raisins Sing the Hits, but, then I did enough celebrity-stalking to find out Bill has a soft spot for indie rockers – based on a report that he’s enjoyed a Beach House concert and there’s a YouTube clip of him watching The Growlers at SxSW. The Shins might just be right up your alley, Bill!

On a semi-related note, the term “indie” gets thrown around a lot to describe not only a genre of music but also to connote more over-arcing ideas about a certain way of dress, a certain sound, and a certain attitude in people who dress in that fashion and listen to ‘that’ music. Indie is a better way to demonstrate these stereotypes than, say, rap or glam-pop – because rap and glam-pop are genres of music that are tied to physical appearance. Indie, from what I’ve gathered, was actually just a shortening of “independent record label,” so you didn’t have to spit out that whole mess every time it came up.

What being “indie” means is that the band (or a member or two therein, or a friend, or someone who doesn’t work for a record company) wrote the songs and they own the rights to the songs. If they wanted to re-release the same songs with a different recording/pressing studio, they could. Also, the recording studio couldn’t have another artist come in and record the same songs. An example of that last instance would be what happened with “Hit Me Baby One More Time” – the track was written for TLC, but the trio passed on the song, and it was subsequently recorded with Britney Spears.

I can’t recall the status of every album I’ve reviewed thus far, but The Shins Oh Inverted World (Lettuce Flavored), The Mountain Goats Tallahassee (Crimean Dawn), and The Ozark Mountain Daredevils Car Over the Lake Album (Lost Cabin Music), are all examples of indie records. The More You Know! [somebody cue the shooting star rainbow]

SIDE 1:
Caring is Creepy;
One by One All Day;
Weird Divide;
Know Your Onion!;
Girl Inform Me.

♠SIDE 2:
New Slang
The Celibate Life
Girl on the Wing
Your Algebra
Pressed In a Book
The Past and Pending.

This is The Shins first album, despite most of the songs being written years in advance by James Mercer. It would appear he’s the conductor, as he wrote the music before The Shins project came together, and he’s the only original member in the band to date. The fact that some of the more influential contributions he’s penned came to him around the ripe, old age of 28, and The Shins debut album was cut when he was 30 (although he was releasing songs under Flake Music since his early 20’s).

“New Slang,” “Girl Inform Me,” “Know Your Onion!,” “Caring Is Creepy,” and “Your Algebra” all stand out as songs I love, but I’m going to read the wonderfully-included lyrics sheet now and report back on the lines that hit me most sincere at this very moment (please hold. . . ). OK, ironically, it was none of those titles that won out just now. It was a tight race. This is a very tight album! But one offering, at least:

Pressed In a Book

doted on like seeds planted in rows
the untied shoelaces of your life
nurtured all year then pressed in a book
or displayed in bad taste at the table
problems arise and you fan the fire
while there’s a wild pack of dogs loose in your house tonight.
cut from bad cloth or soiled like socks
add it up and basically people don’t change

they just talk and make plans in the dark
or make haste with ideas that can’t help
but creep good people out
as you talk to me too much you’re assuming
we don’t always want what’s right.

did i strike the right set of chords? you’re annoyed.
the goal is to ignite you then move on.
you feel ill at ease. you got no squeeze.
and the wise cracks won’t make you more stable.
you’ve learned your lines to scale and to time.
why must i remind you now i’m only less able.
cut from bad cloth or soiled like socks
we’re ordinary people we can’t help but to change

as we walk and make plans in the dark
or make haste with ideas that can’t help
but creep good people out.
as you talk to me too much you’re assuming
we don’t always want what’s right.

two fallen saplings in an open field.
snow padding gently on an empty bench.
an old woman’s jewelry lying unadorned.
cold nesting robins allied for the first time.
i know when you hear these sappy lines
you’ll roll your eyes and say “nice try.”

(I don’t really relish analyzing what someone else means all the time, but I liked the bit about ‘creeping good people out,’ and the eye-rolling has a tie back to another track I nearly chose, “One By One All Day.” It’s odd how the songs I remember liking from hearing them and the songs that stood out to me from reading their lyrics were not the same songs!)

All songs written by James Mercer (Lettuce Flavored, BMI)

The Shins recorded are Marty Crandall, Neal Langford, James Mercer, Jesse Sandoval

Tracks 1,4,5,8,10 produced by James Mercer / The Shins
Tracks 2,3,6,7,9,11 produced by James Mercer
Mastered by John Golden at John Golden Mastering, Ventura, CA
Design by Andrea Leah

David Hernandez: bass line design and performance on enhanced version
of New Slang (When You Notice the Stripes)
Melanie Crandall: cello on Your Algebra
Neils Galloway: french horn on The Past and Pending

Sub Pop Records
PO BOX 20367, Seattle, WA
98102
USA

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