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Week 562: “New Slang” by The Shins

Despite the title, this song by The Shins has nothing to do with slang; in fact, the story behind the lyrics is far more nuanced and intriguing. It all started in Albuquerque, when—

What? Why did you stop writing?

Something’s wrong.

What do you mean?

Where’s the Album cover?

The album cover?

Yeah, the album cover. These posts always start with an image of the album cover. You can’t have a post that starts with text. Nobody will read it. Blogging’s already a dying format, if you don’t include something to grab the reader’s eye they’ll just scroll away, and then they’ll never know the story behind the lyrics of “New Slang” by The Shins.

Okay, so just put the album cover up there at the top of the post.

But…wait, which album cover should we post?

What do you mean? The album cover for “Oh, Inverted World”. It’s the album this song was on.

Well yeah, but it wasn’t until the Garden State soundtrack came out a few years later that this track really got famous. If it weren’t for that movie, I probably never would have heard this song.

What? The movie didn’t make it a beautiful song. It was a beautiful song already, that’s why Zac Braff chose it for his movie. Use the Oh, Inverted World image.

It was such a key moment in the movie! When Natalie Portman tells you that a song is going to change your life, you pay attention.

But this is my blog, not Natalie Portman’s. And besides, the album art for Oh, Inverted World is far superior.

Superior? It looks like a decal you’d put on the wall in a baby’s room.

Well Zac Braff and company yelling while standing on top of old construction equipment isn’t much better.

That image is from the movie. It carries emotional weight.

Do you hear how pretentious you sound?

Okay, fine. Put an image of James Mercer instead. He’s the songwriter, and sometimes you put an image of the songwriter when you don’t like the album cover, right?

Not really – I mean for some classical posts I use an image of the composer. But that’s only because classical album art is usually abysmal.

And I’m the one who sounds pretentious?

Well played.

Alright, how about putting BOTH album covers? You did that once, remember?

Right, but that’s because there were two versions of the song.

What’s the difference?

It’s different! Come on, we’re wasting time! This was supposed to be a backstory post, or maybe a touching-insight-into-growing-up post. Now it’s turning into a gimmick post.

What do you mean, “gimmick post”? We don’t do gimmick posts, do we?

Remember when you travelled through time to interview yourself?

Oh yeah. Well, listen…the song’s probably over by now, so should we maybe just not post any image at all? For the first time in 562 weeks, a post with no image?

At this point, there is zero chance anyone has read this far anyway.

Fair enough.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The melody – that ghostly falsetto “ooh” that opens and floats through the song – is supremely catchy, and contains all the emotional tensions and implied growing pains of the characters in Zac Braff’s movie. Or, if you find that pretentious, it’s just supremely catchy.

2. The verse keeps switching between 4/4 time and 6/4 time, giving the song a stuttering, indecisive feel, as if it’s having a conversation with itself about whether or not it should include an image in its blog post.

3. The lyrics are difficult to parse, but also quite touching. There’s a story behind them, but there’s no time to get into that right now.

Recommended listening activity:

Deciding not to make a decision.

Buy it here.

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Week 562: “New Slang” by The Shins


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