Will Hermes
October 17, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Chutes Too Narrow

Current Status
In Season
Sub Pop
Indie Rock

We gave it an A-

Blame it on hip-hop verbosity, but the Shins join a network of word-drunk indie rockers (Bright Eyes, Belle & Sebastian, etc.) who stack images like Marshall amps. What makes the Portland, Ore.-based crew especially magical is their ability to make lines like ”This is way beyond my remote concern of being condescending” actually sound catchy. Like conservatory dropouts raised on the Beach Boys and early English madrigals, they follow 2001’s pop-a-licious ”Oh Inverted World” with just the record you’d want: production a bit bigger (via guitar-magnifier board man Phil Ek), and songs more adventurous but no less indelible. INSPIRATIONAL VERSE ”Fate isn’t what we’re up against/There’s no design, no flaws to find,” sings frontman James Mercer on ”Young Pilgrims,” a faintly suicidal ditty.

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