Results for The Shins

interviews

James Mercer

You're in a beloved band at the height of success. Natalie Portman tells the world that your band will change lives. So what do you do? Blow everything up, of course. At least you do if you're James Mercer. The Shins frontman and founder followed up his Grammy nominated, Billboard charting album Wincing the Night Away with a decision to completely change the group's lineup and sound. He sought out producer Greg Kurstin, best known for working with Lily Allen and Kesha, and the result is Port of Morrow. As he discusses with Jim and Greg, this transition wasn‘t easy, but was necessary. And it’s not the first time Mercer made an unexpected collaboration. He and Danger Mouse (of Grey Album fame) joined together for Broken Bells. Check out video of Mercer performing songs from the album, as well as an oldie, but goodie.

Go to episode 338

Broken Bells

James Mercer of The Shins and Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) formed a band called Broken Bells that combines Mercer's songwriting abilities with Burton's incredible production techniques. The duo has released two albums under that moniker and the project has two fans in Jim and Greg. The band met at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark have continued to work together on-and-off since. Brian talks about their songwriting process which essentially boils down to late night chats about everything under the sun, and then putting those ideas to music in the studio. James describes how Brian pushed him as a singer—making him do take after take until he got it right. Broken Bells' newest album As Greg notes, After the Disco is evocative of that 3 a.m. feeling when things“wear off.”The band joined Jim and Greg for a special performance at the historic Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, OR. The crowd was courtesy of our friends at opbmusic

Go to episode 467

The Dismemberment Plan

Like its peers Death Cab for Cutie & The Shins the Washinton D.C. band The Dismemberment Plan was on its way to major success in the early part of the new millenium, and then in 2003, decided to pack it in. Bassist Eric Axelson, guitarist Jason Caddell, drummer Joe Easley and singer Travis Morrison went in different directions (Easly at N.A.S.A.!), but more than a decade later the D-Plan is back with Uncanny Valley. They talked with Greg about their multiple musical influences, including punk rock, hip-hop & D.C.'s Go-Go scene. Lead singer Travis Morrison says that ultimately the band is still figuring it out, much like Ferris Bueller did.

Go to episode 427
specials

Sub Pop Records

Sub Pop Records, the label that made "grunge" a household word, is turning 20. Since its inception the small Seattle outfit has exploded internationally, giving music fans a dose of the Northwest punk sound with bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Mudhoney. Now Sub Pop is home to indie phenoms The Shins and The Postal Service, as well as comedy duo Flight of the Conchords. Jim and Greg speak with Jonathan Poneman, who started the label in 1988 with former fanziner Bruce Pavitt. Poneman explains that there was so much great rock in that area at the time that they were compelled to document it. But their ambitions didn‘t stop there. Poneman discusses Pavitt’s assertion that the most vital culture happens outside the big media centers. This kind of big thinking paved the way for the breakout of regional music scenes and the idea that indie bands can be as big as major label ones.

To celebrate Sub Pop's anniversary Jim and Greg both pick their favorite tracks from the label. Greg starts with a song by The Afghan Whigs. He explains that the tradition of signing non-Northwest bands began with the Whigs. They started out as a faux-grunge band but became more distinctive when they brought in elements of soul. You can hear that in the track "Miles Iz Dead" off the album Congregation.

Jim also wanted to pick a song that showcased the diversity of Sub Pop. It's more than just a grunge label. Jim looks to Cardinal, a band that represents much of what's happening in the indie world today. The duo gave birth to orchestral pop, and one of its members, Eric Matthews, put out a terrific debut on Sub Pop in 1995 called It's Heavy In Here. Jim chooses to play that album's opener, "Fanfare."

Go to episode 137

Summer Road Trip

What better way to round out the summer than with a Sound Opinions (virtual) summer road trip. Too often, New York, L.A. and Nashville get all the music industry attention. But, there are great rock scenes all across the country, so this week Jim and Greg check in with insiders in three music towns coast-to-coast. They talk to Sam Sessa, an entertainment writer for the Baltimore Sun and the host of WTMD's Balitmore Unsigned, Bob Mehr, a music critic at Memphis' Commercial Appeal and Casey Jarman, the music editor at Portland's weekly newspaper the Willamette Week.

Check out these local acts-old favorites and new ones recommended by our city guides.

Go to episode 248
reviews
Wincing the Night AwayWincing the Night Away available on iTunes

The Shins Wincing the Night Away

Our Rock Doctors patient and tons of fans have been anxiously awaiting The Shins' third album, Wincing the Night Away. The band got notice after its first two albums received critical praise and industry buzz. Natalie Portman's character in Garden State even proclaimed that their music would“change your life.”Now the Albuquerque band attempts to change more lives with their new Sub Pop release. Jim admits that he previously found the Shins' brand of "power-pop" more wimpy than powerful. But he thinks the band has added more depth and more kick to their sound without sacrificing their light, jangly sound or poetic lyrics. He gives the album a hearty Buy It. Greg agrees. He appreciates that despite the band's increased success and increased budget, the sound remains modest. He predicts fans will need to give Wincing the Night Away a few listens before really“getting it,”but also gives the album a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 61
Fleet FoxesFleet Foxes available on iTunes

Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes

The latest band to break out on the Sub Pop label is Fleet Foxes. While they haven't reached Nirvana or Shins status, Jim and Greg agree that this is a band to watch. Fleet Foxes belongs to the "freak folk" music club, but Jim much prefers their deeper, more convincing sound. He loves their beautiful harmonies and melodies and is impressed by their deep influences, especially considering how young their members are. Greg agrees, adding that the sound is entirely their own, full of untraditional arrangements and dense atmosphere. Both critics give Fleet Foxes, their self-titled debut, a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 137
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even SankWe Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank available on iTunes

Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

This show is an all-reviews blowout starting with the new release from Washington state indie rockers Modest Mouse. We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank is one of the most highly anticipated records of the season. Modest Mouse's underground fan base has emerged into the mainstream in the past few years, despite lead singer and chief songwriter Isaac Brock's status as a rather polarizing figure. Jim recommends fans check out Alan Goldsher's profile of Brock, Modest Mouse: A Pretty Good Read. Now, the band is joined by former Smiths' guitarist Johnny Marr. James Mercer, lead singer of The Shins, also provides backing vocals on a number of tracks. Greg thinks that Isaac Brock is doing what he does best on this album: combining quirky vocals and rhythms with a traditional pop sensibility. He describes it as a very well-crafted record that isn't over-thought or overproduced and gives We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank a Buy It. Jim was also impressed, describing the album as“brilliant.”He thinks Brock deals in gloom and doom better than his peers and urges everyone to Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 68
Broken BellsBroken Bells available on iTunes

Broken Bells Broken Bells

Jim and Greg review the self-titled debut from Broken Bells, the new collaboration between James Mercer of The Shins and Danger Mouse. This is an unexpected pairing, but Jim and Greg are both impressed to hear each artist stretching. Greg notes that both are minimalists in their own right. And the first half of the record has one fine track after another. But he finds the second half slightly disappointing. Overall, though Greg gives Broken Bells a Buy It rating. Jim doesn‘t understand Greg’s complaints. He doesn‘t think the album falls off at any point. It’s a perfect collection of pop songs and deserves a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 225
After the DiscoAfter the Disco available on iTunes

Broken Bells After the Disco

The term supergroup is often overused, but the duo Broken Bells might fit the bill. The Shins' James Mercer and producer Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse came together for a 2010 self-titled debut. Now they're back for round two with After the Disco. Greg enjoys its chilled moodiness, noting Mercer and Burton's skill at layering complex and beautiful melodies. But, the effect eventually begins to wear thin, so Greg can only say Try It. Jim thinks Greg is being too harsh and argues the record is more soulful than chilled. Mercer's strong vocals paired with Burton's crisp yet dark sound creates a sustained mood throughout that's introspective and worth repeat listenings. Jim says Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 427
lists

The Best Songs of 2007 - Mixtapes

Jim and Greg present their Mixtapes for 2007. Check out the track listing below.

Go to episode 109

Turkey Shoot

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means it's time for Sound Opinions' annual Turkey Shoot. These aren‘t just bad records, they’re bad records from artists that are capable of better. Nothing stings like disappointment, and these were the biggest musical disappointments of 2012:

Go to episode 364

The Best of 2007… So Far

Jim and Greg just couldn‘t wait until the end of the year to start picking their favorite albums, so they’ve decided to name their 2007 mid-year best.

Go to episode 81
rock doctors

Rachel

Next up Drs. Kot and DeRogatis call another patient in from the waiting room. Rachel from Chicago, IL describes her musical symptoms as that of being stuck in a rut. She explains that she hasn't purchased any music in the past few years, and only listens to albums or mixes that her friends give her. Rachel is eager to improve her musical health though, and is willing to take her medicine — however bad it tastes. In order to steer Jim and Greg in the right direction, Rachel gives her medical/musical history . She counts U2 (during the Joshua Tree-era) and Tom Petty as two of her favorite artists, and explains that she really appreciates melody and lyrics in her music.

Dr. Jim gives the first prescription. He clues into Rachel's heartland rock leanings, but also wants to challenge her more. He decides to give the patient a dose of Wilco. Like '80s-era U2 and Tom Petty, Jeff Tweedy and the members of Wilco are strongly influenced by guitar-based American folk and rock. There is a strong emphasis on lyrics and on telling stories of the American condition. But like U2, who chose to work with avant-garde producer Brian Eno on The Joshua Tree, Wilco can also be very experimental. Jim finds this is especially true of their last album A Ghost is Born.

Dr. Greg is up next. He suspects that one of the things Rachel likes so much about her favorite music is how anthemic it is. Both Bono and Petty are strong frontmen that get a rise out of their audiences. He believes this is also the case with the music of Montreal band The Arcade Fire. In fact, U2 opened up their last tour with a performance of the song "Wake Up" off their debut album Funeral. Again, the Arcade Fire might be a little more stylized than what Rachel is used to, but Greg hopes she will appreciate their epic sound.

A week later, the patient returns. Rachel relays that she is feeling a bit better, but is not totally cured. She realized that some of the Wilco and Arcade Fire songs were actually already in her iTunes collection without her even knowing it. Rachel enjoyed both albums, but not completely from beginning to end. She liked the more anthemic songs on Funeral like "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Crown of Love," but found some of the tracks a little noisy. However nothing was as noisy as Wilco's 15-minute experimental jam "Less Than You Think." But, even Jim and Greg agree that it's OK to skip past that“test”to more traditional pop/rock compositions like "Theologians" and "The Late Greats." Rachel doesn‘t think she’s replaced her favorite standards, but looks forward to keeping up with these two bands and getting more new music like… The Shins (up next in the show).

Go to episode 61
news

Music News

Jim and Greg begin the show with a discussion of Lollapalooza and other summer festivals. There's Coachella in California and Bonnaroo in Tennessee, but Chicago is shaping up to be the major destination for music fans this year. The Lollapalooza lineup is impressive, with a diverse mix of bands including Lolla vets The Flaming Lips and Red Hot Chili Peppers, indie favorites Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins, and Chicago natives Wilco and Kanye West. Plus, the city will be home to two of the biggest independent music festivals: The Pitchfork Music Festival, featuring Destroyer, Art Brut, Spoon and post-punk pioneers Mission of Burma, and the Intonation Music Festival featuring The Streets, Bloc Party, Lupe Fiasco and a rare appearance by 13th Floor Elevators founder Roky Erickson.

Go to episode 21