Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Shins: Chutes Too Narrow [Sub Pop, 2003]
A gifted melodist with an arranger's knack for psychedelicizing simple structures and a folkie's fondness for acoustic strum, James Mercer is a pop formalist like Elephant Six's Robert Schneider and Spoon's Britt Daniel. Although he comes on oversensitive at times, he's no obscurantist and no stupe. When he references Sir Thomas More it's so you remember that utopia seemed an option back "before murder was cool." And yes, when he brings in the steel guitar he's getting ready to leave Albuquerque for Portland--and leave his girl behind. A-