Album review: The Shins’ psychadelic Heartworms

The Shins, an indie rock band from Albuquerque, New Mexico, formed in 1996. Since then, they’ve released five full-length albums, have toured the U.S. and Europe, and have played at festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella.

The recent albums by The Shins have had a more futuristic theme about them, but their newest album, Heartworms, takes a walk down nostalgia lane while also adding some new sounds into the mix. Heartworms was released March 10 and includes the opening track “Name for You.” The song has a familiar sound and a happy beat with lyrics like, “They’ve got a name for you / Some stupid name / they’ve got a name for you girls / What’s in a name?”

The song “Painting a Hole” stands out in the album, reminiscent of recent work of the band Animal Collective. The trippy song has a lot going on instrumentally, which I like. The lyrics also add to the song with interesting lyrics like “So many germs to avoid / Thinking about it just nurtures them / Baby, return to your toys / A little mental hideaway.”

Midway through the album is “Mildenhall,” which provides calming relief with a softer acoustic sound. This flashes back to their old music. In a more folksy style, the song has lyrics like “I started the morning with my dad’s guitar / He taught me some chords just to start me off / Whittling away on all of those rainy days / And that’s how we get to where we are now.”

“So Now What” has a breezy, familiar sound to it. After listening to it, I was like, “Hey! I’ve heard this somewhere!” And I was right, it appeared in the 2014 Zach Braff film Wish I Was Here. Keeping this in mind, I might be more inclined to name this song as one of my favorites, but it does have a slower, hazy sound to it, which contrasts nicely from the other songs in the album.

Ending the album is “The Fear,” which I’ll say is my number one favorite of the album. Lead singer James Mercer has openly discussed his battle with anxiety and depression. He told NME, “When I was a kid, I would have waves of it that lasted months and I didn’t know what the hell was going on…back then you just got told to shut up. It faded into this depression that lasted a while, and I haven’t had that for a long while. Sometimes anxieties come in, just from knowing that I have kids and I have to be there. It comes at weird moments in life, too. Like we went for this big meal the other night because The Shins are releasing a new record, and then I realized that it’s just me in The Shins so all those people were there for me.” “The Fear” hits the nail on the head for anyone who knows what it’s like to struggle with anxiety, with lyrics like “The fear / I feel fear / Of all the stupid things / A man could feel / what am I, blind?”

What I love about Heartworms is that it blends sounds of folk, psychedelic, and synth-pop, all in one nice package. Plus, when one of your favorite bands of all time releases a new album for the first time in five years, it’s kind of hard not to love it.

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