“Fug Yep No. 2” treads water

Although a nice novelty made for a good cause, The Shins’ new singles lacked the imagination of previous projects. A member of the group recently passed away due to alcoholism, so the single was released as a contribution to the Fug Yep Soundation’s series of singles to help raise money for combating alcoholism. 

The single is simply called “Fug Yep No. 2,” and is composed of two tracks. Both are very short and simple, “Waimanalo” taking the form of hectic hillbilly hollering and “Trapped by the Sea” somberly drifting back towards the safer waters of previously explored sounds.

Although “Waimanalo” is definitely a new direction for The Shins, it’s not a welcome one. It feels derivative of the genre rather than inspired by it, and doesn’t have much in terms of interesting lyrical choices. “Trapped by the Sea,” however, is a typical Shins song. The lyrics paint a picture of hopeless isolation in a way only James Mercer, the frontman of the group, can; the minimal instrumental allowing the sauntering vocal melody to float dreamily on the surface of a cresting synth. 

Unfortunately, neither is up to par with the group’s recent work, and they just don’t feel polished. “Waimanalo” seems nothing more than an experiment, and, according to Mercer, “Trapped by the Sea” was written some 20 years ago, which makes it an interesting look back at how far he’s come. However, this does explain occasional lackluster lyrical and melodic choices. 

In no way does either track improve on the groups’ style portrayed on their last album. They feel more like a detour than a stepping stone, and the history of “Trapped by the Sea” is probably why.

Despite the novelty of the tracks, “Waimanalo” only manages to squawk grating nothings, and “Trapped by the Sea” isn’t fleshed out enough to be anything but a buoy compared to the ships passing it by. Neither of them really merit repeat plays, but they’re a nice appetizer to absorb while waiting for the band’s next release. I give “The Shins’” “Fug Yep No. 2” a two out of five.