The five-year drought following the last Shins album had fans anxious to hear what the alternative band would bring next. The album opens with “Name for You,” a pop-rock tune which relies heavily on snare drum and has similar hypnotic psychedelic aspects to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band by the Beatles.
The album is a combination of a more modern version of the Shins with some of their previous works, such as Wincing the Night Away (2007) and Port of Morrow (2012).
James Mercer, lead vocals and guitarist from the Shins, shows their versatility and does not follow a single direction in this album, instead pulling inspiration from a variety of music genres. Most songs have a simple drum pattern which accompanies more complex guitar riffs. The hooks in “Fantasy Island” and “Name for You” are much more electric and fast paced, while “Mildenhall” is laid back and has much more of an early Shins sound.
The layout of the album isn’t necessarily consistent and does not follow a pattern, seemingly mixing country, synthetic pop, psychedelia and alternative, in no apparent order. The resulting effect is intriguing.
Most songs on the LP pull from electronic music, with the snare drum and keyboard being the most commonly featured. However, “Mildenhall” provides a good reprieve from the intensity of their more electronic sounding songs and has an acoustic feel.
The closing song, “The Fear”, ends with a sad harmonica and ukulele, but wraps up the album well. It epitomizes what it must be like to be a middle-aged man still working with the same band he started 16 years ago.
The Shins’ album was released March 10 and is considered by Rolling Stone to be the “most charming” music produced by Mercer. It combines their older sound with their newer sound, and it does so successfully. The album is an obvious progression for the band.
The Shins have come full circle. The next album (if there is to be one) has the ability to take a multitude of routes. After finishing listening to Heartworms, fans will wonder if the next album will return more to the Shins’ roots or progress further to the country or pop side. While it would be out of character, the featuring of these genres on the album proves that Mercer is ready to take risks and see what happens. With Heartworms, Mercer went the right way. The album is well-received by reputable magazines such as Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. Pitchfork claims Heartworms is the “most hermetic LP James Mercer has released since 2001.’”
By: Rebecca Szlajen, Contributing Writer