Wincing the Night Away

I like the new Shins album. I finally got around to reading Seattle Weekly’s feature from January about The Shins and how they have helped Sub Pop move out of the grunge era. The article even credits The Shins with attracting quite a few other bands to the label. One snippet I found amusing:

The record the Shins have made, Wincing the Night Away, is a boldly produced, sonically dense record that stretches the band’s retro pop sound into broader, spacier territory. Anyone looking for the jangly, Brian Wilson-esque numbers of Chutes Too Narrow will need to check their expectations at the door.

While I agree that this album is more complex than the first two, I still hear Brian Wilson all over it. The first time I heard “Phantom Limb” (on KEXP via my alarm clock one morning) I actually wondered whether it was The Beach Boys, but it also reminded me of The Shins and then I remembered that a new Shins album was imminent. The Beach Boys comparison had never even occurred to me with Chutes Too Narrow, which the reviewer seems to think was the more Brian Wilson-esque album.

And “Pam Berry” sounds like Travis to me.

I’m going to see them at the Paramount tomorrow (even though I hate the Paramount for concerts). I hope the theatre isn’t full of Garden State fans who think that “New Slang” changed their lives.

P.S. The 6-CD changer in my car broke last spring (fortunately it was under warranty). I took it to the dealer to get it repaired, which they did very quickly and for free, and when I got my car back the CDs that had been inside the changer were mysteriously gone. No one at the dealership seemed to know anything about it. One of those CDs was Chutes Too Narrow, which I still need to replace. Grrrr. Thank god for Rhapsody.

Overexposed, Commercialized

A few weeks ago, I was listening to the radio, and I heard the most amazing thing: Jenny Lewis, covering “Handle With Care” by the Traveling Wilburys, along with her friends Ben Gibbard, M. Ward, and Conor Oberst.

I spent a few moments wondering whether Jenny et al had concocted that cover and arrangement just for me. No, I’m not really so self-centered to think that four indie pop stars would care about catering to my desires. But really, I couldn’t help wondering. It was too perfect.

My fandom of Jenny doesn’t stretch that far back. I started listening to Rilo Kiley when I was in college, and like any good female RK fan, I developed a bit of a girl-crush on Jenny (very normal). I remember my amazement when I found out that Jenny was the actress who had played Hannah in Troop Beverly Hills (yes, it’s a bad movie, but I really liked it when I was ten). When the Postal Service album came out, it became a permanent fixture in my car CD player (in fact, it’s still there after something like 3 years). Normal stuff though, really.

But I have a history with the Traveling Wilburys, man. We go way back.

When I was 12 or 13, my dad took Shawn and me on an amazing road trip. We drove from Irvine, CA to Bozeman, MT, with a stop in Vegas and a bit of camping in Utah on the way. We spent a few days at a family friend’s ranch in Bozeman, riding horses, trespassing on Ted Turner’s buffalo ranch, and pretending we knew how to drive tractors. Then we drove to Yellowstone National Park, and visited all of the sights there, doing some camping and hiking along the way. Then we drove all the way back to California. It was my first time doing any real camping, and certainly the longest stretch of road I had ever covered in a week.

Well, that was in the days before we had a CD player in the car. But we did have a portable discman with a car adapter. Now, my father’s musical taste is interesting (but we’ll get into that another time), and he only brought about 3 or 4 CDs with him on the trip. And during the first few hours of our trip, my brother discovered the Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1. Not only did he discover this CD, but he hatched a plan: he decided that we would listen to that album, and that album alone, for the entire duration of our road trip. No breaks. No other albums. Just that one on repeat. Bear in mind, it’s about 35 minutes long, so that’s quite a few times around.

I mostly remember that road trip as a Traveling Wilburys daze. I had dreams about Tweeter and the Monkey Man. I could hear “Congratulations” or “You’re Not Alone” playing in my head even while we were hiking or while I was brushing my teeth in the morning. It never stopped. To this day, the opening chord to any of the songs on Vol. 1 takes to me back to that long stretch of road between Montana and California.

So you can imagine my surprise when I heard that cover on the radio a few weeks back. I sat in shock and silence for a few moments. Then I called my brother.

Jenny’s “solo” album, Rabbit Fur Coat, officially comes out next week. I just found out about a Saddle Creek pre-sale, which also includes a 7-inch with some extra material. I ordered mine last night, and I’ve heard rumors that some people have already received theirs. Now I just need to set up my turn-table so I can play the 7-inch when it arrives.

Just Driftwood, Hollow and of No Use

Brian, Mike, Kenny, and Aaron are in a band. The band has been through several name changes, and none of them have really felt right yet, but right now they go by “Driftwood” (after the Travis song?) Last week they played a Cinco de Mayo gig at Rob Light’s Queen Anne pad, and were joined by my roommate on a couple of songs (including a really nice cover of Rilo Kiley‘s “Execution of all Things”). Mike recorded the show, so I’ll pester Kenny to make sure he posts a few mp3s so you can check them out.

Check out the photos here.

The Artists Currently Known as Driftwood