"Given all the drops in the ocean/ Better take it one sip at a time."
This lyric plucked from "Name For You," the first track on The Shins' newest album, Heartworms, seems to speak to the vibe of the album itself. It's a work that begs for relaxed accompaniment by sun and a breeze, but one that also revels in its introspective elements.
Heartworms is the first we've heard from The Shins since Port of Morrow in 2012. This time, frontman James Mercer brings back the classic brand of indie-rock we've come to expect from the band with subtle changes and lyrical undertones of longing and childhood nostalgia.
"Painting a Hole" follows "Name For You" with shaky and repetitive background vocals that prove both slightly unsettling and dangerously catchy. "Let it all gush out/ Shopping your brains out now at the bargain bins," sings Mercer. It's not a pleasant image, but it's the sort of disconcerting lyricism that comes with the rhetorical territory of naming an album Heartworms.
Around the album's midpoint play "Fantasy Island" and "Mildenhall," two tracks that drive home a sense of wistfulness. Mercer takes a long look back at his adolescence, reflecting on how a lost youth can impact decisions later in life. The meandering psychedelic sound on "Fantasy Island" is an apt choice when paired with its colorful storybook images. "I was just a boy/ Out there on my own/ Wishing I could fly/ Fantasy island."
"Mildenhall" proves the most singular track on the album, one that listeners will surely find themselves returning to once the work loops through. In the song, Mercer sings about his experience living abroad while his father was stationed in England at a Royal Air Force base. It's a beautifully folksy departure from the experimental indie that surrounds it. The track leaves you wanting a little more, but it may be this incomplete feeling that compels a second, third and fourth play.
It's no secret that a well-crafted piece of alternative indie-rock will inevitably be played behind a character in a romantic comedy as they attempt to decide whether or not to steal a car and go after the person of their dreams. If I had to guess which song would be used in the background of Hollywood's latest, I'd put money on "So Now What," with its flowing melodic falsetto that proclaims, "I had this crazy idea/ Somehow we'd cruise to the end."
Heartworms is a fitting fifth addition to The Shins' anthology. It's an album you'll surely find yourself coming back to again and again, with tunes that flow easily together and lyrics that compel multiple listens.