So while The Shins is technically a solo act again for James Mercer, the new album Heartworms is full of the richness and life that Chutes Too Narrow embodied–without the full band. Mercer has laid down an 11-track, exquisitely polished self-produced album that playfully jumps around from psychedelic to classical pop to country to the beloved indie rock that made him ohh so famous! There are several moments on this album that will bring sheer joy to the faces of those that listen and quite a few nostalgic moments that will leave you forgetting what year you’re in. Heartworms is for the fans of early Shins music AND for newcomers alike–there is not one song on this album that sinks!
The record kicks off with Mercer’s most exultant, chirpy song– “Name For You” feels incredibly organic and sincere but that would make sense since it was written for his three daughters. While “Name For You” kicks things off in a very sunny way Mercer quickly leads us into groovier, dirtier territories with the heavy “Painting A Hole”, which is equally as listenable but in a completely different way. Almost sounds like a collaboration Mercer and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker (hey, we wouldn’t mind that)! However, “Painting A Hole” transports the listener to an alternate dimension and empowers the listener with its incredible lyrics and driving synths–easily a 5 star song for us!
Mercer is in constant forward motion on this album with elated, Passion Pit type songs like “Cherry Hearts”, which is a synth-y, falsetto-laden pop song that gleefully plays with various synth riffs. “Fantasy Island” is Mercer’s homage to his younger-self and the struggles of his youth and particularly his relationship with his father. It sounds like a downer, but it’s a rather upbeat song–with sad lyrics.
And then there’s “Mildenhall”, which is another autobiographical song recalling his military days and the start of his career in music. It sounds like this came right off of Chutes Too Narrow with its country feel. One of the most heartwarming songs of the album–“started messing with my dad’s guitar, fiddling away, on those rainy days, and that’s how we get to where we are now”–goosebump-inducing.
The first song that Mercer released for the album was “Dead Alive” and it’s easy to see why this choice was made as it’s one of the more listenable to, unique, and psychedelic songs on the album with its percussion-soaked background and pulsating organ throughout.
Mercer has just delivered one of the best Shins albums yet and Heartworms will easily crawl its way in your heart and into your music library–eternally.