Album Cover
The Shins
Chutes Too Narrow
Sub Pop
October 21, 2003


Consider Oh, Inverted World: how it was a brilliant throwback to sunny sixties pop, and how nobody thought it could be topped, and then how McDonald's used "New Slang" in a commercial, and everyone thought their sound would be compromised, what sellouts, I hate them for being popular. Chutes Too Narrow is, in order, more brilliant and sunny, better, uncompromised (in that it doesn't remind me of hamburgers in any particular way), who cares, and shut up. Chutes Too Narrow is pure gold, to Inverted World's uncommonly shiny silver.

OIV's overall acceptedness, while lamented by some more irritating fans, was clearly an immense help for the band: here, they seem much more confident in their sound, lyrics and pop sensibilities than on their debut. While the majority of OIV was enshrouded in reverb and echo, Chutes is crisp and bright throughout, and the lyrics in particular shine with sunny clarity. The result: everything sounds almost unbearably happy. Even "Those to Come", the melancholy closer, radiates chilly happiness from its warm sadness: singer/guitarist/harmonica player James Mercer's teary-eyed whisper of "They are cold, still/ Waiting in the ether to form/ Feel, kill, propagate/ Only to die" fills you with contentedness, but not enough to not immediately listen to the album again.

Their songwriting and playing skills are as solid as ever, and their skill at playing unchallenging but wonderful throwbacks to sixties pop has, if anything, increased. "Kissing the Lipless" opens the album on a light, carefree tune, which suddenly, with a few twangs, explodes into outbursts of high-pitched joy. "Fighting in a Sack" somewhat brings to mind Ted Leo, with an outstandingly catchy refrain and a fast-paced rock-and-roll rest of the song. "Mine's Not a High Horse" sees Mercer's lyrics about an octave lower than usual, and also a shadow of Oh, Inverted World as a reverby synthesizer peeks through the guitars and vocals. All the songs are simple. But all the songs are fantastic.

Above all, this album just makes you feel really good. That such joy can come from such simplicity is a testament to just how outstanding Chutes Too Narrow is, and how outstanding the Shins are - success has only changed them for the better. Whatever your current mood, this album will lift it. "This rather simple epitaph/ Can save your hide, your falling mind," Mercer croons in "Young Pilgrims", and he couldn't be more right.

Noah Jackson

Track List

  1. Kissing the Lipless
  2. Mine's Not a High Horse
  3. So Says I
  4. Young Pilgrims
  5. Saint Simon
  6. Fighting in a Sack
  7. Pink Bullets
  8. Turn a Square
  9. Gone for Good
  10. Those to Come