Shuffle up and deal

The Shins — Kissing the Lipless

I’m not here to tell you that The Shins will “change your life” like Natalie Portman’s character notably did in Garden State.  That statement is hyperbolic for me.  But I am here to tell you that James Mercer of The Shins is one heck of a songwriter and that this particular song is beautiful.  The subject matter seems to be sad and messed up, the song is beautiful nonetheless.

The song begins with non-sequitur consisting of a small flurry of claps and a “Woo!”, which happens from time to time with Shins songs.  For example, Australia (from Wincing the Night Away, my favorite Shins album) begins with studio chatter.  Someone, in a German accent says, “Time to put the ear-goggles on!”, to which another high-pitched voice replies, “NO!”.  The Shins like to incorporate those moments of exuberance pre-song.  I’m a fan.  I’m doubly a fan of the “ear goggles” line because it pays homage to the line in the Beastie Boys song Sure Shot where Ad Rock says, “I strap on my ear goggles and I’m ready to go.”

Back to the song at hand.  The structure is relatively simple to begin with and is dominated by acoustic strumming with just a smidgen of “psychedelia”.  As the song goes forward the sonic landscape becomes more complex with beautifully haunting keyboards and glockenspiel.  The last verse and the bridge have an increased urgency and furious guitars. The end part of this song is particularly captivating and beautiful to me.  It’s also where my favorite lyrics of the song come in:

You tested your mettle of doe’s skin and petals
While kissing the lipless
Who bleed all the sweetness away

The visual of kissing a lipless person is off-putting, at a minimum. What do you all think?

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