Album review: ‘Heartworms’ by The Shins

After a five-year absence, and yet another Broken Bells album, songwriter James Mercer is back with The Shins. The band’s latest album, released March 10, is called Heartworms. It features 11 tracks with themes of innocence that match its instrumentation. All of this comes together in a project that makes me feel like it’s 2010 again.

Heartworms strikes a nerve in me that I buried a long time ago, along with the embarrassing moments of my high school naivete. All of these memories and emotions came rushing out as I listened to the album — thanks to Mercer’s simple and relatable lyrics and the lighthearted vibes of the instruments. The entire work is well-contained in these themes of vulnerability and hindsight, which makes listening to it very satisfying. Heartworms looks back to characterizing moments of the past, invoking a nostalgia representative of the pre-2010 renaissance of alternative indie music.

Speaking of nostalgic indie music, the lighthearted and playful instruments in the album are subtly similar to MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular. The synths in particular are catchy and guiltless, almost as if there was a cute, little baby behind the keys picking out their favorite sounds. With a carefree guitar and other colorful noises playfully inserted throughout, Heartworms delivers an etheral atmosphere that I would equate with the many days I spent daydreaming in class when I was young.

The Shins’ new album works well because the childish instrumentation is paralleled by similarly themed lyrics. Tracks like “Mildenhall,” “Fantasy Island” and “Half Million” all look back at the innocence of childhood and the ignorant decisions that we all make in our youth. “Well I was just a boy/Out there on my own/Wishing I could fly/Fantasy Island” is the chorus of “Fantasy Island.” Mercer’s lyrics throughout the album have this sort of tone.

Furthermore, the songwriting is simple enough to understand and therefore more accessible to a general audience. The lyrics are also relatable enough for everyone to invoke a connection to the vulnerability of being a child.

If there is one aspect of Heartworms that I do not enjoy, it is the lack of variation among the tracks. While the chorus of “Rubber Ballz” is distinct enough for the listener to realize that they are actually listening to a new track, it isn’t until the last two songs that I heard a variety in song structure or tone. “So What Now” is especially exceptional because the lyrics shift into a seriousness and awareness that goes hand-in-hand with signaling the ending of childhood; and of the album.

The once overused theme of youthful ignorance is refreshing to hear nowadays — The Shins hit the nail on the head. Heartworms captures the curiosity of being a kid and does it so well that one can’t help but reminisce after listening to it. However, this theme is displayed to its fullest extent, so much so, that there is hardly room on the album for anything else.

Heartworms gets an 8 out of 10.

Contact CU Independent Arts Writer Alvaro Sanchez at

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