A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the Shins don't produce harsh music or inappropriate themes on their third album, but they do radiate wisdom beyond pre-pubescent years as a band, as noted by the angst-ridden title of the album. This is smart, mellow indie rock that belongs in a college dorm room just as much as it belongs in a junior high student's gym locker next to his first-ever deodorant.
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What's the story?
In a highly anticipated third album, WINCING THE NIGHT AWAY, the Shins prove they are a stable mainstay of indie rock, vacillating between upbeat and daydreamy ditties that promise to sweep any kid away on a whimsical la-la-la musical journey. The Shins' sound is in full command of spacey sunshine pop with nuggets of head-rocking riffs shining through. Complex, abstract themes leak out of the Shins' lyrics, and happily create a free-flowing, meditative ambiance. \"Spilt Needles\" is a manifesto about growing up (\"We'll set you up with some odd convictions / because you're finally golden, boy\"). Surreal and slow-going about self-deceit and baseless faith, one excerpt from \"A Comet Appears\" croons \"I'm barely a vapor/ they shone a chlorine light on / a host of individual sins / let's carve my aging face off / fetch us a knife/ start with my eyes down.\"
Is it any good?
Basic melodies hold steady on this CD -- with soaring vocals, silly synths, light percussion, some strings, flutes, and an occasional electric guitar. Subtle twists come into play, like a few quips of hip-hop beats in "Sea Legs," skipping electronica in "Sleeping Lessons," and random surf rock in "Pam Berry." But most of the album's merit stems from curious wordplay that creates their mellow presence. The band's emotionally honest lyrics are never brutal, but are blameless and always inspiring.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how lyrics can take on the brilliance of poetry as a form of art. Sometimes they make sense in a straightforward way; sometimes words gush out in stream-of-consciousness, and sometimes they seem to have no pinpointed starting place or anchor. What are the benefits of expressing yourself this way? How does it impact a song to have such abstract lyrics? Kids can try writing some of their own conceptual words. How does it feel to write lyrics that are intangible?