On Record: Heartworms, by The Shins 

For many listeners, the opening notes of Oh, Inverted World bring back 2001 in vivid detail: the heyday of indie pop and a time of carefree and unpretentious, if not simple, rock tunes. But most people didn't keep listening to the Shins past their second album, leaving the band to a tough 14 years of personnel changes and creative fits and starts.

Now, the only original Shins member left, frontman James Mercer, is back with Heartworms. It's the band's first self-produced album since World, and it reads like a comeback album or a restart.

click to enlarge noise_shins.jpg

The album sounds very much the same as the Shins' earlier work, which is good and bad. Mercer's quiet, whimsical sound is back, with fun and interesting arrangements that separate the Shins from their hordes of indie-pop contemporaries. On the other hand, the music doesn't exactly thrill the way it once did. It's not clear if that's because Mercer hasn't grown with the indie movement, or because everyone involved has grown in different directions. Or maybe Oh, Inverted World was just a truly special album that appeared in exactly the right time and space, and it's hard to let go of that.

Heartworms has a few standouts, especially the wonderfully written "Mildenhall," but with each song, I felt more nostalgia for the band's past than excitement for its future.

The Shins play the Wilma Thu., May 25, at 8 PM. $35-$40 advance.

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