Review Summary: Pure Pop Perfection
The Shins - "Oh Inverted World"
Twenty seconds into opener "Caring is Creepy" this album pulls you into its current and keeps you there.
It's a moment of "ahh. . .", of a valve somewhere deep inside the human soul getting tweaked and releasing steam. It's a cathartic moment - every part of this album just feels so right
that these songs must have been pulled from some reserve deep in the human soul, some ancient memory of a past life given a title and pressed to a disc.
But memories can be deceiving - these songs rarely progress the way that you think they will. At least until that singular moment where everything falls into perfect place.
"Oh Inverted World" has that effect on you. Some people may not "click" with this album as I have, but for me it's like meeting an old friend again after a long separation.
This album is often deliberately murky, but never confusing. The band's guitars, sometimes fast, sometimes long and warbly, create a pleasant wall of sound like a musical hug. Chimes, background vocals and even sound effects cue in at appropriate moments, rounding out the instrumentation. This is an album in perpetual soft focus that will need to be listened to a few times to be fully appreciated.
What we are left with is an album so sonically sublime, so unified and pure in its presentation that every instrument, shift and flow of the music feels necessary. These songs vibrate at just the right frequency.
"Oh Inverted World" is indie music at its finest. Though the songs are immediately catchy, the listener will find songs here deeper than most modern music fare. The production sounds low-fi and dated, but not like a White Stripes record, where incoherence is part of the charm. No, the instrumentation here is ethereal but thoughtful. The pieces fit, and they fit well.
With an album like this, the lyrics feel almost irrelevant. Mercer's voice becomes just another instrument, distant and nearly unintelligible. I can't understand more than a sentence fragment here and there and I wouldn't have it any other way. There's hardly a misstep on the whole album. Even the creepy low-tempo detour "Your Algebra" feels ineviable in retrospect. Why couldn't I see it the first time? And celebrated single "New Slang" is nothing more or less than the song that will change your life, if Natalie Portman is to be believed.
This is a perfect indie pop album, but more than a pop album. This is a true album - the tracks on "Oh Inverted World" contribute and build on one another.
This is an album to grow on you. This is music to make you feel happy, refreshed and ever-so-slightly exhilirated. Pick it up and remember these songs for the first time.
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