My relationship with singer James Mercer has been an off/on again one. I sat way at the back and talked with mates through The Shins set at the Austin City Limits Festival in 2006. I really liked Wincing the Night Away, missed the first Broken Bells album, wasn’t too fussed about the second, and never got around to checking out Port of Morrow. However, I did jump on Heartworms a few months ago, ignoring the horrendous cover artwork but really enjoying this press shot. In general it was a good decision, with a few reservations.
Self-produced by Mercer, the album jumps from style to style and often comes as a cross between the amped up pop of Weezer with the nostalgic lyrics of the recent Magnetic Fields album. The charming folk of “Mildenhall” looks back at discovering new music while living in the UK as a teenager. “Rubber Ballz” and “Fantasy Island” have similar nostalgic stories but of love at a young age.
Lead track “Name For You” has the most memorable hooks but is followed up with the darker “Painting a Hole” and therein lies the biggest knock on Heartworms. The multiple styles can be jarring at times and the lyrics are not always as deep as the ocean. A few of the tracks will surely end up as regulars in concert and appear on a greatest hits compilation someday, like the quite beautiful “So Now What”, while a handful of others really never need to be heard again.