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Outside Lands 2011: The Shins

Away from the madness of Phish at the end of Outside Lands' first day, The Shins's music built a bubble of gorgeous, serene night music on the Twin Peaks stage. The massive hordes of audience members who had managed to wrangle themselves away from the noodling masses of Phish-world seemed in a revelatory mood, arms in the air and hitting all the highest "oohs" and "aahs" singer James Russell Mercer sent soaring into the night. For a band who hasn't made an album since 2007, it was astonishing how many people were pushing forward, singing every word. It was absolutely a welcome return to form.

Yet I could sense we were all hoping it wouldn't be a night of "greatest hits", even though we were all hungry to hear the songs we loved so much. Some of their most fierce (as fierce as The Shins can get, that is!) songs like the twinkling xylophone-laced "Kissing The Lipless" and "So Says I" from their timeless album Chutes Too Narrow were rendered a little more tame (but perhaps even more beautiful and anthemic), which is to be expected after almost ten years of first writing and performing them. The band's more recent material from its post-Garden State album Wincing the Night Away got a ton of love ("Sea Legs"), as did their old-school jams like "Girl On The Wing" and, of course, "New Slang", which sent waves of nostalgia through the crowd, almost everyone around me harkening back to the first time they'd ever heard the song that first introduced them to the band.

It was a much-needed dose from a group that's been MIA for far too long. Here's hoping their supposed 2012 album comes sooner rather than later.

Text by Laura Mason