h

The Shins : Heartworms

8

The Shins’ fifth album Heartworms is their first in four years and the follow-up to The Port of Morrow. Anticipation has been high for the latest offering from the indie stalwarts, with the enigmatic James Mercer again at the helm of their latest creation. The angular melodic pop on this release is masterfully arranged and produced. Kooky vocal arrangements, bizarre percussion, swirling strings and, at times pounding electronic rhythms abound aplenty. It’s a playfully euphoric affair laced with plenty of dreamy ‘la la la’s’ – a la Painting a Hole – that will surely sit pretty with the fans. There are also instances of tenderness, stripped back (albeit only slightly) folk: the sound of a uke playfully strummed and a harmonica blown just on the edge of hearing. Worthy of a special mention and arguably the centrepiece of the record, Mildenhall, is something of a travelogue, a jaunty country number recounting Mercers’ experience living on a Royal Air Force base in the UK, due to his father serving in the US Air Force. 
 
To this layman, there are moments that are reminiscent of Jeff Lynne's production work with ELO. Heartworms is undoubtedly a sugary dollop of pop, but it’s sweet without being saccharine, and there’s a lingering taste of sadness that helps the medicine go down.
 
By George Hyde