Review of The Shins’ long awaited new LP titled “Heartworms”
By Carter Bagley
The Shins have always been one of my favorite bands growing up and I’ve never hidden from anyone that my favorite album of all time is their 2001 debut “Oh, Inverted World”. Singer songwriter James Mercer has this raw talent that I rarely see in other musicians. He is incredibly gifted with words and metaphors and this is why I’ve always had this personal connection to this band’s music. The rest of the band split after 2007’s “Wincing The Night Away” and he pulled together a brand new team for 2012’s “Port Of Morrow” which was good but not great compared to The Shins’ first three albums. However, I appreciated how Mercer tried new types of music and tried to make a new sound and it worked on much of the album but not so much on other parts. This time around though it seems like he’s perfected these new styles and I’m glad to say that although this is different, it’s still The Shins I fell in love with. “Heartworms” begins with their second single “Name For You” which is a catchy, pretty pop song and a great start to a new album. It shows off Mercer’s vocal talents right off the bat draws you in instantly. The band released many of the song before the release date of the album and I thought all of those songs are great but it’s a few of the songs I hadn’t heard yet that hooked me. Songs like “Painting a Hole” and “Half A Million” recall back to “Wincing The Night Away” while simultaneously adding in some new flavor as well. The effects laden “Cherry Hearts” and “Fantasy Island” were the songs that really drew me in though. Mercer brings in all these new sounds that I haven’t heard from them before and he uses his voice as an instrument to pair with the music. It builds to a volume so high that it makes me wonder how he could possibly reach it. His voice and lyrics are so distinct that you know a The Shins song the moment the lyrics are sung. The third single “Mildenhall” brings in a folk sound that recalls back to their “Chutes Too Narrow” days. It manages to be perfectly nostalgic without being over the top and it may be a new classic from the band. Some of the songs didn’t quite hook me though like “Rubber Ballz”, “Heartworms” and “Half A Million” just didn’t work on every level like many of the other tracks. The lead single “Dead Alive” is fantastic classic sounding The Shins and I loved from the first time I heard it. “So Now What” is easily one of my favorite tracks from the album and I’ve loved it since it was first released way back in 2014 for Zach Braff’s film “Wish I Was Here”. The whole thing closes out with the longer track “The Fear” which uses interesting melodies that seems like they come straight out of the 90’s at points. The album is not lyrically as strong and much of the band’s discography but but seems to focus more on the sounds. Many songs build this huge wall of sound and it’s interesting to hear all of it surround you and listen as they start to fade out one by one at end of each song. James Mercer focused on many different types of music hear and incorporated all of it into this album and at some points in the same song even. I loved it more than I expected and I can honestly say that this album is not perfect but it’s pretty damn great.
Highlights: Name For You, Cherry Hearts, Fantasy Island, Mildenhall, Dead Alive, So Now What
Lowlights: Rubber Ballz, Half A Million, Heartworms