Song of the Day #561: ‘A Comet Appears’ – The Shins

If I had to pick one band in my CD collection that I’m not obsessed with but probably should be, it would be The Shins. Listening to their three sublime albums, I never cease to be fascinated by the clever songwriting and offbeat, elegant production.

And they’ve gotten better and better, with the hesitant indie pop of their debut Oh, Inverted World giving way to the more confident Chutes Too Narrow and culminating in Wincing the Night Away, the 2007 album that ranks as one of the best pop records of that decade.

But, for whatever reason, I don’t listen to The Shins very often, even though every time I do I kick myself for waiting so long since the last time.

The band they most remind me of, in tone if not exactly sound, is Belle & Sebastian. So maybe I have room for only one quietly quirky chamber pop band on my mental playlist and the Scots filled the position long ago.

‘A Comet Appears’ is the closing track of Wincing the Night Away, and it’s a beauty. I especially love the chorus, about as delicate and pretty a thing as I can imagine. As with many of their songs, the lyrics are a bit cryptic and decidedly pessimistic.

One hand on this wily comet
Take a drink just to give me some weight
Some uber-man I’d make
I’m barely a vapor

They shone a chlorine light on
A host of individual sins
Let’s carve my aging face off
Fetch us a knife
Start with my eyes
Down so the lines
Form a grimacing smile

Close your eyes to corral a virtue
Is this fooling anyone else?
Never worked so long and hard
To cement a failure

We can blow on our thumbs and posture
But the lonely are such delicate things
The wind from a wasp could blow them
Into the sea
With stones on their feet
Lost to the light and the loving we need

Still to come
The worst part and you know it
There is a numbness
In your heart and it’s growing

With burnt sage and a forest of bygones
I click my heels
Get the devils in line
A list of things I could lay the blame on
Might give me a way out

But with each turn
It stays front and center
Like a dot stuck square in your eye
Every post you can hitch your faith on
Is a pie in the sky
Chock full of lies
A tool we devise
To make sinking stones fly

And still to come
The worst part and you know it
There is a numbness
In your heart and it’s growing

8 thoughts on “Song of the Day #561: ‘A Comet Appears’ – The Shins

  1. Amy says:

    This is what I’ve been saying for over a year now… how can you possibly give every worthy artist equal listening time? It’s just not possible. So perhaps you shouldn’t be asking yourself why you don’t listen to this band more often but celebrating the fact that you have so much other music you like EVEN MORE. ๐Ÿ™‚

    This band (and these albums) were featured in a movie, weren’t they? Was this the band she was crazy for in Garden State?

    I just got a very comical vision – you hosting one of those “A Dinner for Five” programs, with a guest list including Santigold, Brad Paisley, Morrisey, Tift Merritt, and, let’s put Rufus Wainright in the last spot (you’ll make 6) ๐Ÿ™‚ Can’t wait to hear that dinner conversation.

  2. Dana says:

    Nice sound. I think I have heard a few of their songs on my IPod (thanks to inheriting your collection) and have found their music compelling.

    Oh, and amusing thought on that dinner party, Amy.:)

  3. Clay says:

    I can’ t help it. Not only do I bemoan the fact that I don’t listen to some artists more often, I often get cold sweats wondering what potential favorites are lurking out there completely unknown to me. (OK, I don’t get cold sweats, but I do wonder…)

  4. Amy says:

    Such as Anton Newcombe, Ian Curtis, and Vini Reilly? How those cold sweats coming? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Amy says:

    Or Daniel Merriweather, Angel Taylor, FeFe Dobson, Morning Wood, The Airborne Toxic Event, Safety Suit, and Laura Izibor?

  6. Amy says:

    I, of course, know none of the artists attached to the names I copied above. I found the first in a website about artists who influenced the artists you love and the second on the VH1 website for “new music artists you ought to know.” Their list diverges greatly from MTV’s, I’d be willing to bet. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I gave old Safetysuit a listen and don’t think I’m missing much. Anyway, I’m content to listen to my old Indigo Girls albums and to vote for the next American Idol. But I’m glad you’re making sure to listen to everything else for me!

  7. Clay says:

    I have albums by all of them except Vini Reilly. I don’t really like his sound based on the clips I’ve heard. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Dana says:

    Clay listens to every artist who has recorded so you don’t have to.:)

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