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Monthly Archives: February 2007

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Babbling About The Shins

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Score one for the nerds. The Shins’ latest, Wincing The Night Away, has debuted on the Billboard album charts at #2, becoming by far the highest charting album in Sub Pop Records‘ history. Pitchfork elaborates: “Only pretty-boy rap&b foursome Pretty Ricky bested the Shins last week, selling 132,000 copies of their new album Late Night Special. But we’re fairly sure Natalie Portman doesn’t give two shits about them.”

Natalie Portman endorsement or no, a few listens to Wincing has convinced me that these New Mexicans might be the closest thing we have to a Beatles. Not in terms of uniform brilliance, mind you, but I can’t think of another current band (and a band they are, thankfully lacking in a flashy frontperson) so adept in eclectic and engaging pop music that works on so many levels. This is never more evident than on the chiming and melodic “Australia”. A friend described this irresistible cut as “Smiths-like”, and I’d have to agree. “Pam Berry”, a spacey throwaway, gives way to “Phantom Limb,” the album’s shimmering, gorgeous highlight. If you haven’t downloaded the single at Sub Pop’s Shins page, do so now (go ahead, I’ll wait). With a song that magnificent, the rest of the album can’t help but be something of a letdown. Indeed a stretch of samey, navel-gazing songs characterize the album’s middle — but even then we have a few gems (“Red Rabbits”). By the time the album winds up, you end up feeling as if in the presence of a band that’s maturing and channeling their indie obtusiveness into a more coherent (but no less delightful) vision. Can’t wait to see what they do next.

Oh, in case you’d like to buy Wincing The Night Away at Amazon, here you are.

I Sing the Body Electric

Last night Christopher and myself journeyed over to the Arizona Science Center to view an exhibit called Body Worlds 3. It was wild and interesting. The “Body Worlds” concept was introduced by German scientist Gunther Von Hagens, who developed a method of preserving dead tissue in a process which replaces human body fluids with liquified plastic. On the outset it’s somewhat creepy to think that these bodies on display were once living beings, but those thoughts vanish once you’re actually in the exhibit. Brief glimpses of a Body Worlds exhibit could be seen in the movie Casino Royale. We first discovered it in another flick, the German thriller Anatomy. If you’ve never seen this one, it’s quite an over-the-top hoot — the plot revolves around a group of medical students are terrorized by a mysterious serial killer, one who has the balls to plasticize their bodies in a huge museum display! The cast includes Franka Potente of Run Lola Run, who likely has left this particular opus off her resume.

The Disney Version

Jerry Beck of Cartoon Brew shared a prime piece of vintage ephemera with the Disney Studio’s 1943 employee handbook. I enjoyed the perky illustrations, but beyond that is the fascinating text dealing with wartime working conditions. Dem employees were kept on a tight leash (unlike today).