A year after the release of their don’t-call-it-a-comeback sophomore LP, Chutes Too Narrow, Albuquerque-Portland indie superstars the Shins have quietly released single number two, Fighting in a Sack. Honestly, they could have picked any one of the album’s eleven tracks to bring to the forefront. There’s distinct tonal diversity in the album’s tracks, ranging from the harmony on “Saint Simon” to the alt-country twang on “Gone for Good” and the quiet folk closer, “Those to Come.”
But it’s telling that “Fighting” was their choice, since it’s closest to the first single, “So Says I.” Apparently their somewhat louder, more assertive sound is how they’d like to present themselves. And it’s for the best; songwriter James Mercer’s hooks are their catchiest and his lyrics are their slyest on these tracks: “Walking up a slide/ And there are those we know who’d have us five miles off the track,” he directs at his critics.
It’s difficult to call anything from the Shins a throwaway — even what may be “disappointing” is still great. That said, B-side “Baby Boomarang” has a simple electric guitar blues hook and works as a potential sing-along, but is too weak for a spot on an LP.
The real highlight is a live duet version of “New Slang” from James Mercer’s solo tour with Sam Beam from Iron and Wine. Beam’s warm vocals perfectly compliment Mercer’s acoustic ballad, and hearing two of our greatest contemporary songwriters collaborate is worth the cost alone. A wonderful video for “So Says I” featuring a Communist Russian and a modern United States populated by CGI penguins caps off the single.