I was a little late in hearing The Shins on their last release Oh Inverted World. I'd read a lot about the group and even heard a couple songs on the release, but like with so many other great releases, I either didn't have the time or the inclination to actually pick up a copy until well over a year it had come out. After I found myself singing along with nearly every track, I wonder how I could have waited so long, and so when Chutes Too Narrow came out, I promptly added it to my collection.
The funny thing is that even after listening to their new release for a month, I could barely make up my mind on the thing. It was as catchy as their first disc, but for some reason it felt so familiar that it wasn't something that stuck with me. At the particular moment the release was spinning in my player, it was one of my favorite releases of the year, but as soon as I took it out the whole thing was gone and I couldn't remember a thing.
Now, it's a little later and I have "Fighting In A Sack" stuck in my head both lyrically and musically. Simply put; if you enjoyed their first release, you'll most likely enjoy this disc as well. In 10 tracks and a super-brisk 33 minutes running time, the group has pumped out enough hummable melodies and memorable lines to have you cranking it on repeat. The aforementioned track is about 2 and a half minutes of pure summer breeze, with strummy guitars intertwining with synth and propulsive drums.
Despite having a lot in common with their first disc, there are some slight variations in sound that make Chutes Too Narrow even better than its predecessor. While their last disc wasn't one big burst of pop from start to finish, it did have quite a bit less variety than this newest disc, which starts out with a spunky 1-2-3 punch of tracks ("Kissing The Lipless," "Mine's Not A High Horse" and "So Says I") before dropping off into the quieter "Young Pilgrims" (which may as well be the title track for the album. "Saint Simon" pulls influences from old-time rock-n-roll (think prom in the 50s) while "Gone For Good" pulls in a touch of pedal steel for a touch of country that works damn well. In fact, the only track that doesn't really do a whole lot for me is the closer of "Those To Come." It's not overly long by any means, but is a bit of a downstep arriving where it does. Another great little album from a group who is yet another feather in the cap of the revitalized Sub Pop.