Reason #532 for living in New York…

Because at 2:00 p.m. on any given day you might receive invites from three different people inviting you to see a private show featuring The Shins.

Stepping into Le Poisson Rouge last Wednesday was a bit like stepping back into time. As I stood in the crowd, waiting for the show to start, I found myself looking around, half expecting to spot Natalie Portman lurking somewhere in the shadows.

Though The Shins had released two albums (and decent ones, at that) well before Zach Braff’s heralded Garden State soundtrack hit the ears of the mainstream-indie masses, much of the band’s rise can arguably be linked to this infamous scene:

“You gotta hear this one song. It will change your life, I swear.” (2)

And yet, it hasn’t necessarily been a smooth ride for the band. Shortly after they left Sub Pop in 2007, The Shins underwent a swift series of major structural changes, leaving only one principal member, singer/guitarist James Mercer, left standing.

The (new) Shins (photo courtesy of the artist)

But despite the change in line-up, as soon as I heard Mercer’s distinctive voice break into “Kissing the Lipless,” it was as if nothing had changed. It was surreal. The sound was tight, the energy, there.

“Simple Song” (the first single from their upcoming album)

“Saint Simon”

With or without Portman’s approval, The Shins are poised to be one of the better indie bands of the last decade… at least as long as Mercer is in the band.

The Shins’ new album, Port of Morrow, drops on March 20th on Columbia. Until then, you can stream a video – or just the audio – of Wednesday night’s show courtesy of NPR Music. (Clearly, the audio quality is much better over there.)

Set list
Kissing The Lipless
Caring Is Creepy
Simple Song
Bait And Switch
Saint Simon
It’s Only Life
New Slang
The Rifle’s Spiral
No Way Down
Phantom Limb
One By One All Day
Port Of Morrow

(1) Apparently, former keyboardist/bassist Marty Crandall agrees. “I would definitely attribute a lot of [our rise in recognition] to Garden State. That had a pretty huge impact. We saw double and triple sizes of crowds and sales of the first record. It multiplied our fan base immensely.”

(2) The Shins nearly did change my life, quite literally. On the way to see them play my freshman year of college, an aggressive 16-wheeler was inches away from careening into our navy blue Volvo station wagon on an overpass. (My only thought during my near-death experience was, “Oh come on, you’ve got to be kidding me! At least we could die after The Shins!”)


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"He considered music a liberating force: it liberated him from loneliness, introversion, the dust of the library; it opened the door of his body and allowed his soul to step out into the world to make friends."

- Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being


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