Thursday, April 19, 2007

"You've got to listen to this one song. It'll change your life!"

I got to do something last night that I think everyone should do at least once: I saw my favorite band live. I'm not sure I know exactly how the Shins became the band for me--their song "Know Your Onion!" is on the old Gilmore Girls soundtrack, I guess, and then "Caring is Creepy" and "New Slang" showed up in Garden State, and I went home and downloaded the whole album. It was the first thing I ever bought on iTunes, and it took all afternoon because I had dial-up.

It was so worth it--Oh, Inverted World is still the single most-listened-to album I own. I've listened to it so many times that I don't even hear it anymore, except that at the same time, I sometimes rewind songs to hear them again--mostly the last two, "Pressed in a Book" and "The Past and Pending," which I swear makes my heart rate and blood pressure drop every time I hear it. I like to listen to "New Slang" when I'm far away from home, because it's the most comforting song in the world, but it's also good for driving with the windows down at night in the summer. Or for walking in the afternoon in the fall, come to think of it. I don't know how their songs can be airy and murky and springy, all at the same time, but they are. The whole album just seems like a series of perfect musical moments to me, like I keep thinking, "there is nothing else in the world that would go better in that spot in that song. It's just right the way it is." And so I keep listening to it, and it becomes even more ingrained.

The Shins have put out two albums since then, Chutes Too Narrow and the brand-new Wincing the Night Away, which I think is poised to someday knock Oh, Inverted World off its throne, once it's all worn in and comfortable. It's a wonderful album--sort of atmospheric, but also perfectly, head-boppingly bouncy at the same time, and every single song is good. We'll see where that album and I go together, and maybe I'll write about it more specifically someday.

So, the Shins. Live and in the flesh! What to say about the show itself? I went to see them because I wanted to see them, and not because I thought they'd be an especially great live show. And that's about right--they were a fine show, a good show, but it's not like they're super exhibitionists, or anything. They mostly just come up, play, bounce around a little, and call it a night. It's just that the music is so good, you know? James Mercer must weigh about 130 pounds soaking wet, and he mumbles less live than on the albums. His falsetto is a little scary in real life. There's also have a sort of adorable bass player/second vocalist, and a guitarist who obviously plays Guitar Hero waaay too much, and the requisite all-instrument guy that looks like Richie from The Royal Tenenbaums. They started with "Sleeping Lessons" and ended with "So Says I," and hit most of the high points along the way--just about exactly what you'd expect. It was just a show, not that different from any other show I've been to, but I'm so happy that I got to go and listen.

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