Category Archives: MUSIC

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’

Black Kids – ‘ROOKIE’ Review

Black Kids - ROOKIE - cover

Black Kids, the name may sound familiar, but it’s been a long time since we’ve heard from Reggie Youngblood and company. With the release of Partie Traumatic in 2008, we were granted with a sugary sweet album of catchy hooks with melancholic playfulness, wholly rooted in traditions you may find inside 80’s goth clubs. I for one found Partie Traumatic a welcome refreshing album, and was even more enamoured with their EPs Cemetery Lips and Wizard of Ahhs. Since the radio and soundtrack dominance of ‘I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You’, Black Kids has been wholly silent. After some muddled information, perhaps a long needed long break for Youngblood, whether or not the rumors of increased anxiety are true, I am glad he and the rest of the Kids are well and still working.

ROOKIE‘ is the return that I, and I would posit many others have been waiting for, though it may not exactly live up to its predecessor. With this album, there is a return to the notions of young love, awkward sex and the impending excitement and subsequent hangover of a house party, both musically and in concept. (Look at that album art, I cannot comment on this particular aspect further. If you know the ‘S’, you know, and you sigh.) There is not too much new to report here unfortunately. The opener, ‘IFFY’, gives a sweet infectious hook that brings back a nostalgia for Partie Traumatic, it’s peppy, bright and innocently silly…but it carries on a minute or so over it’s effectiveness, but be assured, you will have it rolling around your skull all day. Maybe even all week. The next two tracks take us into the turmoils of confusing love/like emotions through the lens of The Cure, which colors the majority of these tunes. On ‘In A Song’ there is a bit of subtle unsubtle wordplay in order to poke fun at the notion of writing and singing a love song for someone. ‘If My Heart Is Broken’ is a wide-eyed danceable track that questions the nature of heartbreak and how the body carries on.

As we roll through the album, there are few true highlights as we’ve heard most of this before, and in better form from Youngblood, the true standout track comes toward the end of the album. ‘Obligatory Drugs’ is a menacing invite. Black Kids drop the facade for a moment and make perhaps the most terrifying lo-fi party anthem I have ever heard. Cool loungey piano and bass permeate the track punctuated by lyrics that creep and repeat. Perhaps it is not with intended malice, but being such a shift from the rest of the candy-gloss, heart-string pulling tunes, it starkly stands out above the rest. If they had done with the album what they had done here, ‘ROOKIE‘ would be something so much more.

To sum up, I am ever grateful that ‘ROOKIE‘ made it’s way out to us, if not the triumphant return I have been patiently waiting, it is indeed a return that has me excited to see what they put out next. I’m having a motherfucking party at my motherfucking house, are you in or are you out? ‘ROOKIE‘ is available now here: http://music.blackkidstv.com/releases

Standout tracks: IFFY, If My Heart Is Broken, Obligatory Drugs

St. Vincent Album Speculation – Fan Frothing – Etc.

With her debut, Marry Me, Annie Clark (St. Vincent) painted a pastel picture rife with an inky-black rage, though perhaps suburban frustration. Her second album, Actor, saw a release in tension, but a tight focus on the blaring ennui that is life, a fairy tale with bloody consequences. Strange Mercy, I would argue her most personal record to date wound through glimmering tales of shadowy triumph and rebellion. Her latest, St. Vincent (self-titled), paints a picture of Ms. Clark we were not previously privy to, that of her as a Future Queen, mining a realm of diamond-encrusted microchips and leaving few standing in her wake.

The tremors of a new album coming out, rumored collaboration with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, among others, along with the release of her directorial debut on the upcoming all female horror anthology film ’XX’, Annie has been busy. A snippet of a new song, which I will call, for lack of title “New York is New York”, gives us a taste of what she may have in store, a sweet, yet chilling tune with lyrics that are as likely to embrace you as break your neck. There is promise for bigger and brighter darkness to come from the established guitar virtuoso. It is unclear which direction she will take this new album in. Having always made the guitar scream, weep or laugh at her whim, she has let the synthetic seep in, adding yet another layer to her very varied discography. We may see a further merging of the two in new and exciting ways, and perhaps a sprinkling of horns found both on Actor and her joint project Love This Giant with David Byrne of the Talking Heads. Whatever it is Clark has cooking up for us, it is sure to please the ear, put a lurch in your stomach and tug at your heart strings in one fell swoop.

More information coming as we get it. Stick to Nerd Hall for more music news.