As your standard-issue millennial hipster, I love The Shins. I wore out several iPods listening to them and The Postal Service, almost exclusively. Sure, I was introduced to the band through the 2004 film “Garden State,” but I quickly graduated to their actual albums. Despite my trepidation to watch Zach Braff’s movie now that I’m an adult, I am not at all hesitant to revisit The Shins’ records. I’m confident that they hold up. In fact, if you want to know exactly how well each album has stood the test of time, you can just check out the list below.
Honorable Mention: The Worm’s Heart (2018)
I, uh, don’t really know what to do with this one. It’s simultaneously not quite a remix album and not quite its own thing. It consists of alternate arrangements of each track from “Heartworms” and feels like it should have been released as a bonus disc for the album’s 25th-anniversary edition. Conceptually, it’s a pretty neat idea, and I like some of the tracks well enough. If I’m sitting down to listen to The Shins, though, I’m almost always going to ignore it in favor of their actual, y’know, albums.
5. Heartworms (2017)
Part of me wants to say that this album was where James Mercer ran out of creative gas. I mean, he shuttered the entire project without releasing another record after this one, so it kind of tracks, right? It’s very easy to think that the reason I never want to listen to “Heartworms” is because it’s just not a worthwhile listen. It couldn’t possibly be that I was closing in on thirty when it was released, right? I’m sure my appetite for indie pop will remain as insatiable as it was when I was a hormonal teenager, no matter how old I get. To think anything else would be admitting that my own colors are fading, and that’s impossible.
Play it again: “Cherry Hearts”
Skip it: “Painting a Hole”
4. Port of Morrow (2012)
I really do like “Port of Morrow,” in the way that you like a non-favored cat. See, unlike children, you’re allowed to like your pets to varying degrees — and even dislike them, if they suck. I don’t think “Port of Morrow” sucks, and I don’t dislike it, but my phone isn’t filled with pictures of it. When I get home from work, I don’t pet “Port of Morrow” before I greet my wife. I don’t even have a single nickname for it, let alone dozens like “Po-Po” or “Porty-Morty, My Handsome Little Soldier.” Still, I’ve definitely spent some happy hours curled up on the couch with it, and that’s not too shabby.
Play it again: “Simple Song”
Skip it: “40 Mark Strasse”
3. Oh, Inverted World (2001)
Please don’t get mad at me. I love this album! Some of the songs on it altered my brain chemistry on a fundamental level! Honestly, these top three are basically a 1A/1B/1C situation, but the ancient rules of ranking require me to put them into some kind of hierarchy. See, the system is to blame, not me. In any case, I’ll take Mercer’s advice. I will not betray the way I’ve always known it is: I probably listened to the “Garden State” soundtrack more times than “Oh, Inverted World,” and I don’t feel that bad about it.
Play it again: Natalie Portman told you the answer to this twenty years ago.
Skip it: “Weird Divide”
2. Wincing the Night Away (2007)
I’ll admit, a lot of my affection for “Wincing the Night Away” might have to do with the fact that I was a teenager going through my vinyl phase when it was released. Despite any hipster prejudice I might have had in favor of the rapidly-warping record sitting in direct sunlight on my bookshelf, it’s a great album. It still feels like it’s in the same vein as its two predecessors but with significantly better production. The band’s next two albums would see the dismissal of long-time members, and The Shins have never really felt the same since. So, if anyone is looking to buy a lovingly-used copy of this wonderful record, drop me a line.
Play it again: “Australia”
Skip it: “Pam Berry”
1. Chutes Too Narrow (2003)
It is just about impossible for me to listen to “Kissing the Lipless” and not follow through with a full-album listen of “Chutes Too Narrow.” From the moment those goofy little claps play in the intro, I am totally hooked. This is an earnest opinion, but I’ll admit that it’s a take that gave me a ton of indie cred in high school. “Oh, you like The Shins? Me, too! Except all of my favorite songs are from the album you’ve never even heard of, poser. Don’t worry; I’ll help you. You can take one of my earbuds and we’ll listen to it together. Please don’t look at my face during the bridge of “Young Pilgrims.” I will be crying.”
Play it again: “Young Pilgrims”
Skip it: “Those to Come” (Save yourself some time and just restart the album after “Gone for Good”)