Song of the Day #1,528: ‘New Slang’ – The Shins

Entering Week Five of the never-ending musical genome project, I arrive at The Shins.

This is a band that straddles across two of my broad categories — Pure Pop and Melancholy. In fact, on some of their albums it appears as if it’s their mission to do exactly that, as upbeat pop songs alternate with contemplative, somber mood pieces.

I’ll take a moment now to discuss this ‘Melancholy’ category that keeps surfacing. I don’t want it to be confused with mope rock or music that is necessarily depressing or even downbeat.

I’m referring to a quality of seriousness and earnestness set to music that is minor key and quiet. It’s more about sound than subject matter, though sometimes the two line up nicely.

A couple of weeks ago, a commenter suggested that Paul Simon isn’t a melancholy artist. And no, that word doesn’t sum him up (no single word sums up an artist like Paul Simon). But he absolutely captures the mood I’m describing, particularly in his early work.

Simon’s ‘April Come She Will’ and ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’ are two songs I would hold up as perfect examples of what I mean by melancholy. Even ‘Crazy Love, Vol. 2,’ in his more musically expansive era, does the trick. Those three songs might have nothing in common structurally or sonically, but they share a quality that I’m choosing to label ‘Melancholy.’

So does ‘New Slang,’ today’s SOTD by The Shins.

Gold teeth and a curse for this town were all in my mouth
Only, I don’t know how they got out, dear
Turn me back into the pet that I was when we met
I was happier then with no mind-set

And if you’d ‘a took to me like
A gull takes to the wind
Well, I’d ‘a jumped from my tree
And I’d a danced like the king of the eyesores
And the rest of our lives would ‘a fared well

New slang when you notice the stripes, the dirt in your fries
Hope it’s right when you die, old and bony
Dawn breaks like a bull through the hall
Never should have called
But my head’s to the wall and I’m lonely

And if you’d ‘a took to me like
A gull takes to the wind
Well, I’d ‘a jumped from my tree
And I’d a danced like the kind of the eyesores
And the rest of our lives would ‘a fared well

God speed all the bakers at dawn may they all cut their thumbs,
And bleed into their buns ’till they melt away

I’m looking in on the good life I might be doomed never to find
Without a trust or flaming fields am I too dumb to refine?
And if you’d ‘a took to me like
Well I’d a danced like the queen of the eyesores
And the rest of our lives would ‘a fared well.

One thought on “Song of the Day #1,528: ‘New Slang’ – The Shins

  1. Dana says:

    Okay, well I think my point on melancholy is that most artists who have been around long enough with a diverse collection of songs have written songs that meet your definition of melancholy. And so I’m not sure there is anything about the category that really tells us anything about your personal musical taste. Why do you not like other artists who write melancholy songs or who wade heavily into that direction? Why do you like artists who seldom write melancholy songs?

    Now, I know there are some poeple who would never listen to any song that wasn’t upbeat and there are others who do wade in the melancholy and mellow tunes and eschew pop/dance/rock music all together. But you are neither of those types, so, again, there must be something more than the genome that draws you to artists who straddle and diversify between folk, pop, country and “melancholy.”

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