By Nicola Roy (@circaslaves)
If I had to pick an album to soundtrack my early teens, it would be Port of Morrow by The Shins– without a doubt. I’m pretty sure it was exclusively my go-to album for the best part of a year, and now still whenever I hear the thumping opening to Simple Song or the melancholy strumming of 40 Mark Strasse I’m flooded with deep warmth and nostalgia.
Now, five years later, frontman James Mercer is back with an album that he produced and wrote entirely himself- something he hasn’t done since their debut, Oh, Inverted World, in 2001. Although life can be difficult for fans of The Shins seeing as they seem to often take five-year breaks between albums, this new release is a creation that is more than worth the wait.
What the soft-spoken frontman has done here is created nothing short of a collection of stories, memories, and reflections from his past, many of which centre around his personal life and his own experiences of growing up. The first single released and opener, Name For You, is a cheery, melodic ode to his three daughters and sending them out into the world. Other standout tracks include Cherry Hearts, a song which boasts a classic Shins-esque rhythm only with hints of a more mature, stripped-back sound and bittersweet lyrics- ‘You kissed me once when we were drunk / and now I’m nervous when we meet, I got nothing under my feet.’
Mildenhall is a bittersweet nostalgia trip based on Mercer’s childhood experiences of having to pack up and leave his home to move to Suffolk for his father’s job responsibilities in the RAF. Accompanied by soft acoustic guitars and a gentle, barely-there beat, he sings about how he was passed a tape in class and from that moment, his exposure to British indie and alternative bands (namely The Jesus and Mary Chain) became the force driving his future success: ‘And that’s how we get to where we are now.’
Heartworms is not a huge creative change from The Shins‘ previous material, but when someone such as Mercer possesses such a touching songwriting talent, why should they stray from their roots? Although it may be another 5 years till we hear from them again, this album is just enough to keep us satisfied during the wait.