As an unknowledgeable amateur of The Shins’ past discography, I’d say my experience listening to their fifth and new album Heartworms is analogous to me trying Nice biscuits for the first time. Starting at that limbo stage of not being entirely sure what they are, to finding them a little sweet, a little coconut-y, a little interesting. And after a few, you conclude that like their name, they just taste nice (I am aware that they are pronounced like the French city). The tracks on the album all give a happy sound, making it enjoyable but doesn’t seem to be able to go the extra mile of giving that imprinting effect.
The surreal Festival of the Dead-esque album cover art with the worm spewing skeleton perfectly captures the intriguing sound that isn’t too overwhelming as portrayed with the use of pale watercolours. The softness of the album’s overarching sound is an aspect that is both a strength and a weakness as it is part of what makes the album so palatable but also inhibits it from achieving greater.
Imagine having a lovely picnic with your friends on a relaxing summers day, playing music out of some speakers. The first track of the album Name For You would fit perfectly in that scenario. The beginning sequence in the intro is enough to get you swaying and head bobbing to the variety of sounds contributing to the percussion line that may remind you of coconuts. The simple and consistent chord progression works well in creating a care-free vibe without it being regarded as dull. The birds chirping in the verses definitely adds to the refreshing image of happy individuals lying on the grass, just having a good time. Whilst the track paints a pretty picture, its comfortable sound makes it easy for people to talk over and forget. There are fascinating layers going on throughout this track but unfortunately, there is no distinct quality that makes it memorable.
The fifth track Mildenhall is much more mellow in comparison to Name For You. It is one of my favourite tracks in Heartworms because the rhythmic pattern and note sequence mimic the sound of a moving train, a metaphor for journeying through life. The beauty of the acoustic sound also makes the track seem incredibly fitting for the soundtrack of a coming of age film like Submarine or at least for an independent film that involves a teenager growing up.
If you ever need some music to accompany your sentimental feelings, Heartworms is the album for you. It will bring you back to your angsty teenage years, reminiscing the days of chasing old loves, being hopeful, happy and free. Heartworms is, in my opinion a solid representation of the sounds of youth.