This was the first single from The Shins' third album Wincing the Night Away. The song was released as a digital download in November 2006 with physical copies available for fans to order the following week. In an interview with Billboard, The Shins' lead singer James Mercer described this song as "a hypothetical, fictional account of a young lesbian couple in high school dealing with the s--tty small town they live in."
The title does not appear in the lyrics to this song. A "phantom limb" is a sensation that your arm or leg is still there even when it has been amputated. It makes a great metaphor for odd disconnect.
The video for this song features The Shins and children acting out dramatizations of the stories of Joan of Arc, the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, and the Donner Party.
The Shins' Wincing the Night Away album was recorded in singer James Mercer's basement with additional production done by Phil Ek in Seattle and Joe Chiccarelli in Oregon City.
The Japanese version of Wincing the Night Away featured two additional songs: "Nothing At All" and "Split Needles." Both tunes also appeared on the "Phantom Limb" single.
"It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" was inspired by a dream where Michael Stipe conjured up images of people with the initials L.B.: Lester Bangs, Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and Leonard Bernstein.