The Shins Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop)
Sounding more confident than ever, James Mercer appears to have grown into his spectacular voice on the band's second release for Sub Pop. Chutes is impressive for its evenness—rather than relying on a handful of miraculous hits like their first record's "New Slang" and "Know Your Onion!," Chutes rests balanced on Mercer's increasingly introspective lyrical genius and his ability to craft melodies to envelope it. The result is classic '60s pop fed through a kaleidoscope of contemporary indie rock. Chutes isn't quite the gold mine that is Oh, Inverted World, but it's a subtle masterwork in its own.