It's probably not surprising that a group named Flake or Flakemusic would bite the dust with little recognition. But from the remnants of that group, the Shins were born. Hailing from Albuquerque, the Shins formed in '97 (after playing together since the early '90s). It was the same line-up but with different instruments and approach, adopting an acoustic based sound with a jangly guitar and intricate vocals (as opposed to distorted chord thumping - not that there's anything wrong with that). Signed by Sub-Pop, the Shins released "Oh Inverted World" in '01. "Chutes Too Narrow" arrived two years later.
The Shins received major exposure when two of their songs from "Oh Inverted World;" "Caring Is Creepy" and "New Slang" were heard on the soundtrack of the Zach Braff-Natalie Portman film, Garden State. The tracks sincere melancholy matched the movie's tone.
After two well received albums, the buzz was the Shins next effort, "Wincing The Night Away," would put them over the top. It was so intense that their label's management were allowed to display a stunning level of confidence in interviews. The Shins even performed on a Saturday Night Live ten days before the album's official January 23rd, '07, release.
"Wincing The Night Away" sold 118,000 in its first week to land at #2 on the Billboard 200 chart. And though the album was nominated for a Grammy, the award for Best Alternative Album went to the White Stripes for "Icky Thump."
A year later word came the band was leaving Sub-Pop for James Mercer's label Aural Apothecary. But the changes didn't stop there. Marty Crandall and Jesse Sandoval were replaced by keyboardist/guitarist Ron Lewis and guitarist Eric D. Johnson, both from the Fruit Bats, and Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer.
"I started to have production ideas that basically required some other people," Mercer said in an interview. He also left the door open a crack that he might work with the pair again.
"I understand he's probably doing it out of respect for me reading interviews, it might be hard for him to say it, but... I got fired," responded Sandoval. "There's no other way of looking at it."
First, a report claimed that Mercer planned to take a hiatus until '11. That was followed by rumors of a Shins album in the works. But before anything was confirmed, "Broken Bells," a collaborative effort between producer/creative genius Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and Mercer, landed. Danger Mouse, whose credits included Gnarls Barkley, Beck and the Black Keys, had worked with Mercer previously but the '10 release was their first full-length excursion.
Mercer, backed by singer/songwriter Richard Swift, bassist Yuuki Matthews, guitarist Jessica Dobson and Plummer, toured in support of the '12 album "Port Of Morrow."
The Shins released their fifth studio album, "Heartworms" in '17. The direction leaned toward earlier work rather than the recent "Port Of Morrow." "I made a concerted effort on certain songs to fit the palette, to use the palette that I've used historically for the band," stated Mercer.
2001 Oh, Inverted World
2003 Chutes Too Narrow
2007 Wincing The Night Away
2012 Port Of Morrow
It's small wonder the Shins are signed to a Seattle based label. Their laid-back, intelligent, chord based sound meshes perfectly with the local environment. The Shins are unpretentious and modest. Far from earth-shaking or demanding, the Shins are as comfortable as a well-worn sweater.