Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Shins - Phantom Limb

I know this is just a CD single, but as someone who - while the anticipation is painful at times - refuses to seek out the leaked version of Wincing the Night Away, this is all I got to feed my Shins obsession. I don't think PF typically reviews entire CD singles. They already reviewed the song Phantom Limb, but I got this is the mail yesterday and wanted to talk about it to someone.

There are so many incredible things about James Mercer as a songwriter, but let me focus on his melodies. I remember reading an interview once where he was asked how he writes songs. He says he comes up with a chord progression and then adds a dominant melody and there you have it. Many people probably write songs that way; I know I often do in my attempts. And yet my melodies sound forced, whereas his sound revolutionary.

So what really struck me with the two songs on this CD single that I had not heard until 30 minutes ago was that the unheard melodies in Shins songs have a crack-like hold on me. The chords start, and I sit there for the first few bars thinking to myself "Where is the melody going?" It always ends up being something way more creative and interesting than I imagined it would be. In short, there are lazy ways to write melodies, and then there's the James Mercer way.

All hail James.


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