This is a big one for me, a big one. I have been listening to The Shins since I was born, their band formed in 1996 with the soul of it all, James Mercer. Mercer and one other band member are the only original bandmates since 1996. Since then, Mercer made many changes by adding and taking away band members that didn’t share his vision or blocked his creativity and beyond horizons vision.
Their past album before Heartworms, is Port of Morrow, which sadly I have not fully listened too. (I will listen to it though,soon) Actually one of my favorite songs and partnered music video is from Port of Morrow, called “Simple Song” ( which I recommend to listen to).
As huge, and I mean HUGE Shins fan, it takes time for us die hard fans to grow into the new material. But I will say that I came upon this new album with excitement and curiosity. Since 2014 I have known about The Shins creating a new project with their release “So Now What” in Zach Braff’s latest film Wish I was Here. It is a very good song, kind of like relaxing and dream landscape, depicting the unknown and known. So of course I would be anticipating the new sound Mercer might give us this 2017. I have kept track of Mercer’s moves and posts on Instagram, documenting the making of a single or music video and so far I have been impressed at his work
The album it self is structured very well, the first few songs are upbeat with very significant drums/bass and guitar patterns. Depending on the tone of the guitar, it would give a very warp 80s vibe. The arrangement of “Name for You”, is very paced and similar but not normal to one of his past songs. In a interview Mercer said that this song is a ode to his three daughters.
Past the next three songs, “Mildenhall” takes me way back to the vibes of his (2003) Chutes Too Narrow album which focuses more on acoustic/folk songs. One this singles came out about a year ago, and I was very surprised at the difference between “Name for you” and wondered that this album could feature all categories of a Shins song. “Mildenhall” is drastically different from the second song “Panting a Hole”, which is a potential song that seems like it would veer towards a new sound. But of course Mercer is tricky, and gives the slight affect.
I have to say, one of the most fun songs in this album would be “Rubber Ballz” which is a gem. Quirky and addicting to the “bah dahs”, I do enjoy this song. On to the last three songs, these give me the flash back of true Shins sound. Such as the title song “Heartworms”, catchy and instantly grabbing at the sweet small bass entrance and swooning “ahhs”, and the lyrics take it from there. This one has to be one of my favorites because it offers calming and simple movement. The closing song is very sentimental and completely touching and nostalgic. It hits Mercer’s personal issues of anxiety (fear) and finding oneself under the lack of understanding ones behaviors and thoughts.
Upon hearing this album the first time, I was hesitant and cautious because I did not want to judge it too quickly with my ears still ringing along to (2001) Oh, Inverted world, or (2007) Wincing the Night Away. But this album is full of great songs, catchy, well produced, honest, and different while keeping the same aesthetic. I give this album a 8.5 out of 10. Some songs are still working the way in the covers, but with consistent exposure and repeat, they will come through. I would definatley binge on this album, as I will with Port of Morrow since I must listen to all of it. Mercer did a great job and as a fan I’m pretty happy with this new set of songs to listen to.
*you can find all of The Shins songs on Spotify, Soundcloud, and YouTube
Give it a listen, give music a chance.