Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Top 5 Songs: The Shins

I was halfway through a list of my favourite song lyrics in the history of songs, when I was suddenly struck by the fact that I had to keep restraining myself from adding another song by The Shins. And another. And another. So I decided to save that one in my drafts and instead begin a list of my Top 5 by The Shins.

Way back in early March 2012, I booked tickets for Reading Festival, simply because the thought of Paramore was enough to elicit and actually squeal, and when The Gaslight Anthem were added about a minute later, I literally screamed. Add Foster The People, The Vaccines, Florence, and some weirdos called the Foo Fighters, and I was sold. Cue buying tickets on my poor mother's credit card, and hoping she'd forgive me the next morning when I had to make the "I-just-spent-R5000-on-your-credit-card" phone call. The next few months flew by in a whir of Pumped Up Kicks, you-and-what-army, instrumental intros for Flo's numbers, a cursory listen to The Black Keys... and an interesting new find called The Shins. Something about their melodies haunted me, even though I battled to catch a lot of the lyrics. By the time I got better at figuring out James Mercer's vocals, I just had enough time to place myself firmly in awe of his lyrical genius, before I embarked upon a crusade to learn every word of their setlist before August. It was the beginning of April, and I was hooked.

Fast-forward to this band being the one I was most looking forward to, besides the Gaslight Anthem, but then add 5000 bored-looking audience members, and it was enough to put a massive downer on my excitement. The band's performance was great, but the audience acted like they were at a funeral, and I was the only one singing along to 'Bait & Switch' at the top of my voice. Now, two years later, they are still one of my favourite bands, and I think back on that day with nothing but regret. I wish that I could have blocked the audience out and enjoyed the performance more, but it hurt me personally that such an amazing band weren't getting the treatment they deserved.

Anyway. To make me feel better, let's do a Top 5, so that if you ever happen to see The Shins, you'll be able to sing enough for all those losers who just don't.

'Australia' - At first listen it's upbeat, happy-sounding and catchy. Even if you do work out the words James is singing, chances are you never string them together well enough to realise that it's about being stuck in a dead-end job. It's a classic formula: being with poppy tune, add miserable theme, and it's that perfect shocker for when your listeners finally figure out what you're on about. Don't believe me? Take a look at the lyrics - it's all selfish fools (bosses) and buying of your life's time (that pitiful salary you receive at the end of the month). 

'Port of Morrow' - If this was the first/only song by The Shins that you ever heard, you've be forgiven for thinking that they're super-emo. It's a lament on the sad truths of life, and is horrifyingly descriptive and frank. I love it, and in my head there is a perfect sepia-toned music video to go along with it. 

'Phantom Limb' - Apparently about a lesbian couple in high school, but there's no doubt that everyone can relate to the line "follow the lines and wonder why there's no connection" every now and then. It's a song about being out of place, and all of us rejects know what that feels like.

'New Slang' - Pure and absolute poetry! This isn't a song, it's just a purely genius way of stringing words together into absolute perfection, and elicit emotions I didn't even know I had. I mean, what does "If you took to me like a gull takes to the wind, well I'da jumped from my trees and I'da danced like the king of the eyesores..." even me?! I'll tell you what it means - it means that this band is flawless.

'Simple Song' - Oh, the way I squealed when this was played in How I Met Your Mother! Perhaps they'd finally get some attention in the mainstream media. One of my favourite songs ever, it contains an endless amount of lines appropriate enough to caption an Instagram picture with, or quote on Twitter when you're feeling alone. Plus, the video is full of people tearing each other's hair out and avoiding a wrecking ball, what more could you ask for?

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