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The Shins: Oh, Inverted World


The Shins

Album: Oh, Inverted World
Label: Sub Pop

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An awful lot of acts fall under the big tent of "pop music," but few make music that can't be easily compared to the work of their peers or predecessors. The New Mexico band The Shins creates some of the year's surest and purest pop hooks on Oh, Inverted World, but the album remains eternally unpredictable. Ornate arrangements disguise and enrich sucker-punch hooks, each complemented by the songs' brevity and wit; "Know Your Onion!" has an oddball title to go with its off-kilter structure and two-and-a-half-minute running time, but none of that obscures the brief, thrilling chorus tucked 60 seconds in. The wide-open drama and momentum of "Caring Is Creepy" recalls the solo work of Sunny Day Real Estate singer Jeremy Enigk, but most of Oh, Inverted World either works free of referents, or combines so many as to make them unrecognizable. The end result is a timeless, cohesive thriller: "Girl On The Wing" and the lovely single "New Slang" rank among the year's best songs, and they have to be to stand out here. Inverted doesn't even come close to petering out until the five-minute album-closer "The Past And Pending," which seems like a minor letdown because it's the disc's first unremarkable song. Obtuse and ingratiating, retro and modern in equal measure, Inverted demands so much attention that its 33 near-perfect minutes might as well span hours.