It’s been too long since James Mercer blessed us with new music. Indie music fans were first introduced to his work with The Shins debut album, Oh, Inverted World, back in 2001. But most of the world discovered them when Natalie Portman gave her headphones to Zach Braff in 2004’s Garden State and claimed that the song “New Slang” by The Shins would change his life. It would go on to change the lives of angsty college kids around the world, and make James Mercer and The Shins rock stars of the indie/alternative genre.
It had been three years since he last collaborated with Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse for their explosive and futuristic alternative duo, Broken Bells. But for Mercer purists, it’s been five long years since a new album from The Shins. 2012’s Port of Morrow was a reinvention of the band, with Mercer being the only original member and creating an all-star backing band including fellow songwriters Jessica Dobson and Richard Swift, Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer, and Yuuki Matthews from the Crystal Skulls.
Mercer and co. remained fairly quiet in the years since, only releasing two singles, “So Now What” for the Wish I Was Here soundtrack (which makes a reappearance on their latest album) and a cover of “The World” by The Beatles for Netflix’s Beat Bugs. Needless to say, new music from The Shins is always welcomed and their fifth studio album, Heartworms, brings them back to the weird and unsettling sound of the early 2000’s version of the band.
Heartworms opens with “Name For You,” the second single released from the album. The upbeat track with it’s infectious and catchy chorus is easily one of the highlights from the LP. It acts as both an introduction to The Shins and reaffirms that this is the same band you fell in love with as a misunderstood misanthrope all those years ago. In fact, the album perfectly blends the drastic evolution of The Shins, the atmospheric melancholy songs (“Fantasy Island,” “So Now What”), the strange and eclectic (“Painting A Hole,” “Dead Alive”) and the poetic nostalgia-infused (“Mildehall,” “Heartworms”).
Old and new fans of The Shins will find something to like on Heartworms, an album that that provides a perfect 41 minutes of escapism. James Mercer has officially returned and the world is beyond lucky to have such a talented auteur musician pop up every few years to grace with another magnificent piece of art.