Indie rock kingpins the Shins stretch out on their third album, "Wincing the Night Away," due in January via Sub Pop. Save for a handful of backing vocals, the set is completely finished and will be m

Indie rock kingpins the Shins stretch out on their third album, "Wincing the Night Away," due in January via Sub Pop. Save for a handful of backing vocals, the set is completely finished and will be mixed in the coming weeks in Portland, Ore. Frontman James Mercer tells Billboard.com the album will likely feature 10 songs and one short introduction.

"Wincing the Night Away" was initially expected this summer, then bumped to October and finally into early 2007, but Mercer says the extra time paid huge dividends for the band.

"It would have been great to have released this a year ago, but the benefits [of waiting] are big," he said backstage before the Shins' performance last night (Aug. 23) at Brooklyn's McCarren Park Pool. "I'm constantly reminded of how much better the project gets as new discoveries are made. That only happens through taking your time and being able to approach it with some new perspective."

Mercer is particularly enthused about the song "Phantom Limb," which he says was inspired from a production standpoint by early Jesus & Mary Chain albums. "The song is a hypothetical, fictional account of a young, lesbian couple in high school dealing with the sh*tty small town they live in," he says.

Elsewhere, "Red Rabbits" is what Mercer describes as "a strange, psychedelic piano number with this really tweaked out sound," while "Sea Legs" employs a hip-hop beat reminiscent of the Beta Band. "Spelling Lessons," "Spilled Needles" and "A Comet Appears" will also make the final cut.

"I was just talking to some of the people at Sub Pop who were listening to the rough mixes, and they agree with me that we've stretched," Mercer says. "We're trying some different styles."

"Wincing the Night Away" is the follow-up to 2003's "Chutes Too Narrow," which has sold more than 393,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It's also the band's final album under contract for Sub Pop, and although the Shins have not ruled out re-signing with the label, they are also entertaining other offers.

"We really like the more creative sort of ways people have been putting out their records lately," Mercer says. "People are owning their own masters and having distribution deals. That's real attractive. It's an expensive business. It's probably more expensive for the artists than anyone else."

A smattering of live shows are on tap in the next few weeks, as well as a Nov. 2 appearance at Sub Pop's showcase during the CMJ Music Marathon, but the Shins will hold off on extensive touring until the release of "Wincing the Night Away."

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