‘Heartworms’ By The Shins Album Review: James Mercer Takes Control
The Shins’ fifth studio album, Heartworms, is a celebration of front man James Mercer and his defining sound. Mercer is the only remaining member of the original formation of the band and on Heartworms, he makes the case that he was always the only member that mattered.
Self-produced, the album has a coherent sound – one that echoes the high wave of indie rock music of the early 2000s. The Shins have taken fewer steps towards an evolving sound than they have towards a refined one.
With eleven songs, the album’s total time sits around 41 minutes. Like The Shins’ most recent releases, there are few songs shorter than three minutes – most songs are three and half to four and a half minutes long. But even by the fourth minute of any given tune on Heartworms, nothing feels forced. Heartworms is trim and neat, as every song ends as a complete thought. There is very little want for anything but a replay after a full listen through.
Thematically, there is a smattering of sentiments through out Heartworms. “Name for You,” the opening track and the album’s single, is a heartfelt pep talk to Mercer’s three daughters where he sings, “In a world dearly won, well it’s yours love, you can move it around.”
On “Fantasy Island,” Mercer pines for his responsibility-free youth and he wishes for a flight to a distant land where the problems of adulthood elude all who inhabit it. “So Now What” – which was featured in Zach Braff’s Wish You Were Here, the second time The Shins have lent an original song to one of Braff’s films – is about a crossroads in a relationship and, sonically, serves as a wistful reflection on some of the best memories of the relationship.
Despite the many different stories told on Heartworms, the final package is still very clearly one album. Heartworms feels like going through your childhood bedroom, finding things at random with no relation to the item found before it, but still, each item contributes to the larger picture of who you were and who you are now.
The Shins have outlasted their 2000s indie counterparts and have made an album void of short-lived trends. Heartworms, while serving as a reminder of the early aughts – a time when silhouetted figures could rock out to The Shins on their first generation iPod – it also serves as a template for the future of indie rock.