Quiet is the new loud. Within a rock landscape populated by a thousand screaming, posturing nimrods and a pop wasteland littered with pale, cookie-cutter automatons, an effective way of getting your musical ideas across to a stalwart (but increasingly weary) indie rock audience is to turn it down. It's a fine way to communicate. And these days, it's a fine way to get noticed as well.
It's a method used to great effect by The Shins on their delicate, sparkling debut, Oh, Inverted World. On it, this Albuquerque, quartet sounds remarkably assured, a fact made only slightly less remarkable by the fact that these guys have been together for almost a decade.
Though The Shins' post-punk, garage rock and Brit-pop touchstones are evident here, they are effectively distilled into something striking and new. Predominantly clean electric guitar, spare, firm rhythm lines and atmospheric keyboard fills provide the backdrop for vocalist/guitarist James Mercer's rich melodies and highly literate songcraft. "It's a luscious mix of words and tricks/ That let us bet when you know we should fold," he sings in the aforementioned opener. It could be the rationale for opening oneself up to the possibilities of a new love. Or the manifestation of a persistent belief in the potential of pop music to, transcend mediocrity and against formidable odds, inspire us.