The Shins – ‘Heartworms’ Review

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After a five year silence, The Shins have graced us with another set of tunes from that range from the sweetly melancholic, to more personal cuts touching on various aspects of life, loss, and love.

The album opener ‘Name For You’ paints the picture of a woman successful in traditional ways, weighed down by societal views of women and sexuality, lost amid the daily rush of life yearning for something more. The song brings the familiar Shins sound with an added flair of electronics, which is a musical motif we can find threaded throughout most of the album, perhaps a lingering air of Broken Bells, James Mercer’s side project.

It is evident from the solid wall of sound built by The Shins that while they may have taken time away, there is nothing lost in the time of their extended silence.

‘Cherry Hearts’ is a sickenly sweet track that uses the image of candy to evoke a love unrequited, like passing ships in the night. ‘You’re not wanting anybody wanting you, I get it honest fair, but I’ve been bitin’ all my cherry hearts in half and you don’t even care…’ A fantastically visceral image that perfectly displays the hollow disappointment of a missed chance. Coupled with the hook of ‘You kissed me once, when we were drunk’ it is a dizzying light look at the awkward almost relationships formed in half-confection-hearted attempts  at affection.

‘Mildenhall’ gives us a glimpse at the origin of the entertainer, a warm memory of Mercer practicing guitar chords on a rainy afternoon makes for a quietly reflective acoustic track that snugly fits in with the electric brightness of the rest of the album.

The title track ‘Heartworms’ gives us a look at a touch and go relationship leaving the suitor in a strange state of odd feelings. ‘I feel them wriggling in my blood, gonna do me harm. By now I’d rather lose this losing feeling that came on when you cooled off, started treating me in this friendly way…’ Mercer grabs for the strangeness of love missed or misinterpreted again and again on this album, succeeding nearly each time. ‘Heartworms’ delivers on it’s title in spades.

Sonically speaking there is a freshness to the familiar noises we have welcomed in days passed from The Shins. While ‘Heartworms’ hasn’t got the epic thrust of their previous output, ‘Port of Morrow‘ or the beautifully bizarre ‘Wincing the Night Away‘, it gives us another set of tracks that assures us The Shins are still relevant and willing to morph, if only ever so slightly.

Heartworms is available now from their official website and wherever records are sold.

Stand out tracks: ‘Cherry Hearts’, ‘Rubber Ballz’, ‘Heartworms’

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