The Shins - Heartworms
In the early 2000's it seemed like indie darlings The Shins could do no wrong. Their music was all over the radio and Oh, Invented World garnered commercial and critical success. However in 2017 their brand of folksy Indie rock is no longer on the vanguard and the past few releases have been disappointing at best. Looking for a change frontman James Mercer took the bold step of changing the lineup of the band and now we arrive at this new record Heartworms. This is far and away the most confident The Shins have ever sounded and instead of trying to grasp at previous success Mercer embraces that his sound can change. "Cherry Hearts" which features some chopped up vocals and electronic sounds is high tempo and a version of electropop that we really have not heard before. It is not quite as out there as something from say Animal Collective, but it is close. The record feels quite effortless, but when you realize there has been five years between proper Shins albums it is clear that Mercer drew these songs out over a long period of time. Songs like "Fantasy Island" have this extended outro that is very basic yet incredibly specific. The next track "Mildenhall" which is a retrospective of where Mercer is in his life and career, almost sounds like a little diddy yet still feels very complex and rich.
Lyrically The Shins have always had a leg up on the competition. Mercer just has a way with words that very few people do and He is able to take these really quite complex ideas and distill them down to what exactly needs to be said. On previous albums Mercer's more out there musical experiments such as including electronic elements have been a bit rough. However on this record it seems like everything he tries tends to just work. Writing by committee is great for a lot of bands, but ti seems when Mercer really takes the reins the music benefits, even if it takes him five years to get a record out. What is really great about Heartworms is that it doesn't sound like The Shins trying to reinvent themselves for 2017, instead it just sounds fresh and vibrant modernized without sacrificing what makes The Shins who they really are. The album's closer "The Fear" is a lonely anthem, but not just about the state of being alone but more that anxious feeling when you can't tell whether life will be just forever lonely. It is what The Shins have always been good at, a pop song with a resounding personal message. Heartworms may not be The Shins' best album, but ti shows that they can evolve and are still really relevant. It also just sounds really good.
7.9 out of 10