Release Date: Jan 19, 2018
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop
What makes a song? Is it a series of notes, or is it everything around that core—the production choices, instrumental decisions and vocal inflections that bring a melody to life? Such is the question posed by The Worm’s Heart, the Shins’ sixth studio album. A year-late twin to 2017’s Heartworms, it arrives from a parallel universe where that album has been “flipped”: Slow songs become fast, fast become slow, pop turns to rock and rock turns to disco. Faced with such an overhaul, it’s tempting to wonder if some simmering discontentment with Heartworms has been keeping James Mercer up at night.
Arriving less than a year after Heartworms, The Worm's Heart finds the Shins literally flipping the script: James Mercer and crew turn their previous album's track listing on its head and transform its fast songs into slow ones, and vice-versa. While Heartworms was already some of the band's most eclectic music, the Shins stretch their range even further on these "flipped" versions of its songs -- with mixed results. There are moments on The Worm's Heart that surpass the original album.
When The Shins released debut album Oh, Inverted World, it was significant for two reasons. The first is that it was a distinct turning point for their label, Sub Pop, who – after something of a post-grunge identity crisis and brush with irrelevancy – had started to find their feet once again. The second is that it introduced to the world a band of phenomenal talent, one guided by mainman James Mercer’s knack for crafting oddball yet beautiful, irreverent yet poignant, songs. That was back in 2001.
“Tell me what can I do?” sings James Mercer on Heartworms – the electro reworking of a song he released fewer than 12 months ago. The answer, of course, is “Get your finger out, Mercer and write some new songs”. The concept behind The Shins‘ latest album is to take the previous album (2017’s Heartworms) and flip it, reversing the track listing and reworking each song so the slower, more tender tracks become more upbeat and the more upbeat ones go in the opposite direction. On the surface, it’s a solid idea and brings up questions of the fluidity of modern song..