Wincing the Night Away

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Wincing the Night Away
Wincing the Night Away.jpg
Studio album by The Shins
Released January 23, 2007
Recorded Mid 2005 – Mid 2006, Oregon City, Oregon; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington
Genre Indie rock, indie pop
Length 41:47
Label Sub Pop
Producer James Mercer, Joe Chiccarelli
The Shins chronology
Chutes Too Narrow
Wincing the Night Away
Port of Morrow

Wincing the Night Away is an album by indie rock group The Shins. It was released by Sub Pop Records on January 23, 2007. It is the band's third album, and the final under their contract with Sub Pop. The album was recorded in James Mercer's basement studio, Phil Ek’s home in Seattle, and in Oregon City with veteran producer Joe Chiccarelli (Frank Zappa, Oingo Boingo).

Writing and recording[edit]

Producer Chiccareli had become acquainted with Mercer while in Portland, Oregon, working with Pink Martini.[1] At the time Mercer was recording the new Shins album on his own and finding that it wasn't going the way he wanted and at the speed he wanted.[1] Frustrated and in need of fresh objective feedback he sought Chiccarelli's advice and suggestions, before the producer eventually became involved in a professional capacity.[1]

The duo didn't start the record from scratch; while they started some songs completely anew, they also retained some of the material that Mercer had been recording on his own.[1] According to Chiccarelli in an interview with HitQuarters, the duo spent around two months working together on the album.[1]


The title is a play on the name of a Sam Cooke song "Twistin' the Night Away". As reported in Rolling Stone magazine, it is a reference to band member James Mercer's "crippling insomnia". "Sleeping Lessons", the title of the first track, also references insomnia and was considered as a possible album title.

Prior to the album's release, Mercer confirmed Wincing the Night Away as the album title in an August 2006 interview with Billboard.[2]


The full track listing was announced by Pitchfork Media on October 16, 2006. The first single, "Phantom Limb", was released on iTunes on November 14, 2006 and reached physical retailers on November 21. The new album was previewed in its entirety on the band's MySpace.

The album was leaked from a promo copy on October 20, 2006. Sub Pop responded by hiring a UK company to track down the source of the leak.[3]

On January 9, 2007, iTunes accidentally put the album on sale two weeks before its official release, then removed the option to purchase a day later. It is unknown how many people purchased the album within these two days.

Sub Pop Records also released the album as a vinyl LP, which includes a free coupon to download the album in mp3 format.


Wincing the Night Away debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling in excess of 100,000 copies. This is the highest chart position reached by not only The Shins, but the whole Sub Pop label as well.[4] During the same week, it also appeared as the top album in four other category charts: Top Digital Albums, Top Rock Albums, Tastemakers, and Top Independent Albums.

In the album's second week on the Billboard 200, it fell to number eight and sold about 53,000 copies.[5] Like Oh, Inverted World, the album went Gold. According to Billboard the album has sold 617,000 in the US as of December 2011.


Mercer stated that the band was "stretching out" on the new album, and that the extended recording period had given them more time to develop their ideas.[citation needed] He hoped to address more of the "human condition" on the third album, even though it is subdermally present in the previous two albums as well.[citation needed] Wincing the Night Away is The Shins' most musically diverse and experimental album yet, ranging from hip hop loops to psychedelic to Hawaiian folk to new wave and post-punk elements.[citation needed]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars [6]
Drowned in Sound 9/10 stars [7]
Guardian 3/5 stars [8]
NME 9/10 stars [9]
Pitchfork Media 7/10 stars [10]
PopMatters 8/10 stars [11]
Robert Christgau (3-star Honorable Mention) [12]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars [13]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars [14]
Spin 3.5/5 stars [15]

According to review aggregator Metacritic, Wincing the Night Away is rated slightly lower on average than its predecessor, Chutes Too Narrow. While fewer in number, the positive reviews provided higher praise than for the band's prior work. For example, the Austin Chronicle said that Wincing "makes both [previous] albums sound like fragmented potential".[16] The New Musical Express states that the album is "their best yet".[17] More negative reviews came from Dusted Magazine, which said "this is music that not only is mature enough to know that it can't change the world, but is content to not try",[18] while Village Voice said "filler tunes like "Pam Berry" and "Black Wave" are a far cry from the tenacious stuff that made Chutes the subject of lavish hyperbole"[19]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by James Mercer

No. Title Length
1. "Sleeping Lessons"   3:58
2. "Australia"   3:56
3. "Pam Berry"   0:56
4. "Phantom Limb"   4:47
5. "Sea Legs"   5:22
6. "Red Rabbits"   4:29
7. "Turn on Me"   3:41
8. "Black Wave"   3:19
9. "Split Needles"   3:45
10. "Girl Sailor"   3:44
11. "A Comet Appears"   3:49

The Japanese edition of the album contains two additional tracks, "Nothing at All" and "Split Needles" (alternate version), both taken from the "Phantom Limb" single. "Nothing at All" is also included on the album when purchased on iTunes.



  • James Mercer – vocals, guitar, bass, synthesizers, ukelele, banjo, cat piano, percussion, beat and MIDI programming
  • Marty Crandall – synthesizers, organ, bass, percussion
  • Dave Hernandez – lead guitar
  • Jesse Sandoval – drums
  • Chris Funk – lap steel on "Red Rabbits" and "A Comet Appears", hammered dulcimer and bouzouki on "A Comet Appears"
  • Eric D. Johnson – backing vocals and piano on "Girl Sailor"
  • Anita Robinson – backing vocals on "Phantom Limb" and "Turn On Me"
  • Paloma Griffin – violin on "Red Rabbits"
  • Niels Gallaway – French horn on "A Comet Appears"
  • Additional assistance by Jason McGerr, Marisa Kula, Chris Jones, Bob Stark, Brian Lowe, Brian Vibberts, Kendra Lynn, Wes Johnson & Pete Tewes.


  • Produced by James Mercer and Joe Chiccarelli
  • Mixed by Joe Chiccarelli
  • Additional production on "Australia", "Girl Sailor", and "Phantom Limb" by Phil Ek
  • Recorded by Sean Flora, Hiro Ninagawa, Brian Deck and Lars Fox
  • Recorded at Supernatural Sound, Oregon City, OR; The Aural Apothecary, Portland, OR; Avast! 2, Seattle, WA
  • Mastered by Emily Lazar and Sarah Register at The Lodge, NYC
  • Design and illustration by Robert Mercer

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Interview with Joe Chiccarelli". HitQuarters. 14 June 2010. Retrieved Aug 17, 2010. 
  2. ^ "The Shins Stretching Out On Third Album". Billboard. Retrieved August 24, 2006. 
  3. ^ The Shins Hit The Fans, Sub Pop Calls In The Sheriff - Idolator
  4. ^ "Pretty Ricky, Shins Grab Top Album Chart Spots". Billboard. Retrieved January 31, 2007. 
  5. ^ Jonathan Cohen, "Better 'Late' Than Never: Jones Debuts At No. 1",, February 7, 2007.
  6. ^ Phares, Heather. "Wincing the Night Away". Allmusic. 
  7. ^ Denney, Alex. "The Shins - Wincing the Night Away". Drowned in Sound. 
  8. ^ Costa, Maddy (1/26/07). "The Shins, Wincing the Night Away". The Guardian.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. ^ Woodhouse, Allen (1/19/07). "The Shins: Wincing the Night Away". NME.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ LeMay, Matt (1/22/07). "The Shins: Wincing the Night Away". Pitchfork Media.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. ^ Metivier, Michael (1/19/07). "The Shins: Wincing the Night Away". PopMatters.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ "Wincing the Night Away". Robert Christgau. 
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert (1/10/07). "Wincing The Night Away". Rolling Stone.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. ^ Keefe, Jonathan (1/23/07). "The Shins: Wincing The Night Away". Slant Magazine.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. ^ Kelley, Trevor. "The Shins, 'Wincing the Night Away'". Spin. 
  16. ^ "The Shins - music review". 19 Jan 2007. Retrieved Mar 13, 2011. 
  17. ^ "The Shins-Wincing the Night Away". 19 Jan 2007. Retrieved Mar 13, 2011. 
  18. ^ "The Shins - Wincing the Night Away". 24 Jan 2007. Retrieved Mar 13, 2011. 
  19. ^ "The Shins-Expectations Too Narrow". 16 Jan 2007. Retrieved Mar 13, 2011. 

External links[edit]