The Shins - Heartworms
Critic Score
Based on 29 reviews
2017 Ratings: #575 / 740
User Score
Based on 167 ratings
2017 Ratings: #631
March 10, 2017 / Release Date
LP / Format
Columbia / Label
Indie Pop / Genres
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theshins.com / Website
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Northern Transmissions

Some of the band’s finest tracks are here, far surpassing the cheaper sound of something like “Simple Song” for tracks that are both musically and emotionally satisfying.


The album is a euphoric earworm for the soul.

Entertainment Weekly

True to the band’s spirit, but willing to push beyond aesthetically, Heartworms is a rewarding and singular addition to the Shins’ catalog.

The evolution and maturation of The Shins might continue at its steady pace with this record, but it’s all the better for the sense of nostalgia that pervades it, seeping from both its music and its lyrics.
The Independent

The Shins’ creative mainspring James Mercer has always had a knack for creating distinctive earworms, whose unusual, serpentine melodies burrow deep into one’s affections. Now, on the first Shins album in five years, the title Heartworms suggests he’s trying to do something similar with emotions, sketching autobiographical situations whose particularity evades pop’s more humdrum cliches.

Drowned in Sound

Throughout Heartworms, Mercer and company prove that their sparse output is well worth the wait. The totality of the record is enough to engulf listeners in myriad textures accomplished via sound and vision.


The Shins in 2017 possibly aren’t life changing, but overall Mercer’s songwriting creds are well in tact.


Self-produced and recorded, Heartworms is the most hermetic LP James Mercer has released since 2001’s Oh, Inverted World. His gift for making fussy arrangements seem effortless remains unparalleled.

The Line of Best Fit
It’s a revitalised style that takes a little time to tune into, but once the electronic wavelength is established, it’s solidly business as usual.
A.V. Club

This dynamic is the engine that powers Heartworms, with subject matter frequently much heavier than the psychedelia-tinged pop its bathed in.


Heartworms is an understated and charming production of orchestral rock, surfy riffs cresting summery melodies and experimental streaks of reverb.

Rolling Stone
The result is some of most charming music he's ever made.

Though it takes a few listens to get to the heart of Heartworms, fans who have stuck with Mercer for this long will find it time well spent.


Although the core songwriting is never quite as captivating and merciful as it was on previous albums, Heartworms nonetheless has an adventurous outer shell, and the Shins seem to revel in the newfound space inside of it.

Under The Radar

While Heartworms has its melodic pop moments and the band tries to remain indie-rock stalwarts, there seems to be a lack of cohesiveness between the songs. But one thing that remains strong is Mercer's ability to craft songs that are always interesting, otherworldly, and transport you to another universe.

Consequence of Sound

The Shins are normally focused on the future, but Heartworms, their first album in five years and fifth since 2001, takes a small step into the past.

Loud and Quiet
‘Heartworms’ is a decent Shins album without ever being great. Can I describe it in three words? Yes. Safe, safe, safe.
Slant Magazine

Throughout Heartworms, Mercer ruminates on aging by contrasting his present with his past.


It’s a shame that ambition seems to have gone missing.

No Ripcord

There are so many ideas in Heartworms that give substance to Mercer’s unremitting passion to create, and though he manages to enliven and push the project forward it more so blurs Mercer’s artistic and commercial ambitions.

The 405

When Heartworms misses, it misses small and that can be even more disappointing than missing big. This album is just a few puzzle pieces shy of being great, and that’s a damn shame.

The Guardian

Heartworms is an album of tinkering and pootling, the sound of a man reminiscing on life, referencing his favourite records – less rock star, more bloke living out his hobby from the comfort of a suburban garage.

Pretty Much Amazing

Melodies do abound here aplenty. But what makes Heartworms so maddening is how eagerly it buries them under a landfill of aural waste.


As the elder statesman of indie pop, James Mercer has earned his right to wiggle his toes in previously undisturbed waters, but too often on Heartworms he sounds less like a genius gracefully growing old and more like Wayne Coyne in full mid-life crisis mode.


Heartworms has some songs that longtime Shins fans will appreciate, and they should seek out those songs. But in the age of unlimited audio streaming, it is hard to make a case that the entire album is worth their time.

Crack Magazine

Special effects and studiously flamboyant vocals result in surrealist, cartoon pop that’s stuck in the adolescent.

The Skinny

Aimless and fussy, Heartworms sounds like the kind of album a person with slightly too much money, their own studio and a massive ego would make. Crushingly disappointing, this is, alas, no return to form.

It's really interesting listening to indie bands that were huge in the early 2000s flail around trying to stay relevant. Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins. They all just keep trying to remain relevant, but their time has passed.

This is an album from The Shins. That's about it. It sounds like what you expect The Shins to sound like.
This is not a bad album, but for a band of The Shins' stature and after a five year wait, it's a big disappointment. The overall melodic structure doesn't veer too far from their typical template, but the melodies don't stick as much as they should, and the arrangements are a bit too fussy, detracting from the melodies instead of complementing them. Some decent songs to be found here, but mostly makes me want to listen to their older music.
Indie guitar rock gods The Shins are no more. It's been 10 years since group founder James Mercer rid himself of longtime bandmates Dave Hernandez, Marty Crandall and Jesse Sandoval for "aesthetic" reasons (according to Sandoval he was "unequivocally fired"). Only the second Shins album since taking this singular approach to making music as a group of one (Mercer once famously explained "I always loved these auteurs who presented themselves as bands") Heartworms ... read more
+ Easy-listening
+ well-crafted ...

- ... But very lazy for the Shins

There's nothing more to say, it's an average album which can be enjoyable at few moments.
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.
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Added on: January 5, 2017