For over two decades, The Shins have been pumping smooth, altruistic indie jams into the hands of their fans. Most recently, their fifth studio album Heartworms, comprised of 11 tracks, proves that The Shins still have a firm grasp on that alternative melancholy feel that they hone so well.
Like their other albums, the majority of the songs on Heartworms embody a similar sound. Perfect for background noise while studying or chilling, the asethetic of the album can best be described as gypsy, yoga, riding my bike through Cali with the wind and beach breeze blowing my way. Though the album in its entirety is enjoyable, it can be hard to pick a single track that stands from the rest. Still, three songs feel distinct: “Rubber Ballz,” “Dead Alive” and “So Now What.” Each possesses unique rhythms and lyrics that are memorable both in the context of the album and in isolation.
“Rubber Ballz” begins with some ping-pong Beach Boys-esque vocals; the jubilant, upbeat rhythm and safe, PG lyrics work together to paint a portrait of nostalgia and better times.
“Dead Alive” brings the edgy melancholy. With unique instrumentation and an undoubtedly catchy rhythm, it feels like an ode to a chilly, mysterious October evening.
The most iconic song on the album, though, is “So Now What,” which was a single on the motion picture soundtrack for the 2014 critically acclaimed film “Wish I Was Here.” Featuring The Shins’ hallmark shimmering instrumentals and ethereal vocals, “So Now What” preys on your emotions in every way music is supposed to. It culls dusty memories to the forefront of your mind, makes you think and analyze again and again.
The remaining eight tracks on the album are not auditory flops, but they do lack the distinction of songs like “So Now What” provoke. All in all, Heartworms is a fine album. The thing about The Shins is that all of their albums, when analyzed as a collective unit, aren’t anything amazing. There’s no The Life of Pablo or Revolver; to make a perfect album where each song is great on its own and as a part of the album is rare. Still, The Shins always manage to produce at least two great songs on every album that will stand a decent test of time; at the end of the day, that’s still respectable.