For a band that have seldom changed up their formula, the Shins have managed to get formidable mileage from their brand of straightforward indie rock — even their 2012 work with Kelly Clarkson and Sia producer Greg Kurstin, Port of Morrow, proved to be a buoyant triumph.
So, with nary a weak album to their name, the Shins have returned from the second consecutive five-year break of their career with Heartworms, an album as varied, ambitious and stride-breaking as ever. Hand it to frontman (and only original member) James Mercer for recognizing that the Shins may have exhausted their original sound, as the 11 tracks that make up this fifth album come off blissfully indebted to a hundred different genres at once… and at the same time, none at all.
Mercer seamlessly injects vocal samples into lead-off single "Name for You," layered synths into "Painting a Hole," programmed beats into "Cherry Hearts" and multi-track vocals into "Half a Million," but Heartworms never sounds precarious or forced. The second half of this enterprising LP seems much more organic, as Mercer tries his hand as strummed folk ("Mildenhall"), anthemic soft rock, ("So Now What") and polyrhythmic indie rock ("The Fear").
Although the core songwriting is never quite as captivating and merciful as it was on previous albums, Heartworms nonetheless has an adventurous outer shell, and the Shins seem to revel in the newfound space inside of it. (Columbia)