Singer-guitarist James Mercer's band, Flake, had been a mainstay of the Albuquerque scene for five years when he began to consider a more controlled and pop-driven alternative. Mercer titled the first song he wrote with this new pop mindset "The Shins," and he began to envision a band by the same name that would feature material like that of the Beatles and the Kinks. Soon after the Shins' inception in 1997, Modest Mouse invited Flake to open for it on a brief tour. Mercer and crew came out and did three songs as Flake, then three songs as Somersault (keyboardist Marty Crandall's side band), and then three songs as the Shins. The Shins were the band that stuck, and within a couple of years, most of Flake had moved on, leaving Mercer with Crandall, bassist Neal Langford, and drummer Jesse Sandoval. Through some home demos Mercer had made available at shows, the Shins came to the attention of Sub Pop Records, which first offered the band a shot at a Singles Club 7-inch release. That, in turn, led to the band's first full-length, Oh, Inverted World
, which came out earlier this year. The album is a marvel of baroque yet intriguingly simple pop pleasures and lo-fi studio intricacy. With the kind of verve that suggests the Move as well as the '90s energy of Supergrass and the brains of Guided by Voices, Mercer and the Shins have emerged with one of the best albums of the summer.