I listened to the first song, “Name For You”, back when it released as a single, and it remains my favorite song from the album. It’s been five years since The Shins’ last album, and this song manages to both be their normal sound without being the same thing that we’ve heard from them already. “If you just never eat again/ It’s a means to a terrible end/ Even if your plan is successful/ Have you really got room in your life?/ Yeah and it’s a bland kind of torture/ You’ve played the mother and wife/ But what do you really dream of at night?”
The next song, “Painting a Hole”, takes that excitement from the first song and continues it in a very drum/synth heavy song. But where the first song was a fun kind of excitement, this one is bordering frenzy (in a good way) with the repeated “la la la la la la” and lyrics about being germaphobic and kisses not being enough to reign the vultures in. “You’re painting a hole/ Can you crawl up inside it?/ You’re painting a hole/ On everyone in your way/ You’re painting a hole/ To magical violence/ You’re painting a hole/ But it keeps fading away.” “Cherry Hearts” gives a nice reprive from the last song, as it’s more lighthearted (accidental pun) and talks about an unrequited crush. The name and subject matter of the song might lead you to believe that this is more of a pop song – and it is, in the 80s techno sense.
“Fantasy Island” is the perfect song to shift into the next part of the album. It’s one of those songs you hear in movies, usually musicals, that starts out sad but then mixes with some uplifting instrumentals, in this case a harp. “I’ve always had something to hide/ My skinny arms, my evil intentions/ And back at school, hitting the fire alarms/ Desperately wanting attention/ Well I was just a boy, out there on my own/ Wishing I could fly, fantasy Island.” The next song, “Mildenhall”, shifts to a tropical, Jack Johnson-esque feel. It’s more simplistic than the previous songs, which is good because it gives you a chance to relax and maybe reflect on the topics discussed. “Rubber Ballz” puts more of a focus on the vocals and harmonies. “Hold on, maybe this girl is alright/ Just wants the benefit of a modern love life/ And I don’t know the difference anymore/ I’ve turned making bad decisions into some kind of art form.”
The second half of the album kind of falls flat. All of the songs up to that point were experimenting with different genres yet combining well together, and so that’s what I was expecting for the rest of the album. All the songs sound kind of the same, and while they are in no way bad, they don’t live up to the first few songs. Overall, Heartworms is a great album, and solidifies that The Shins aren’t going anywhere soon.
By: Monica Brich