Saturday, November 27, 2021

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Sound Check

Sound Check



The Shins

Columbia Records

Early in their career, a Natalie Portman character blessed/cursed The Shins with an endorsement that will follow the New Mexico band until its eventual demise. For a while, it seemed like the end might have already occurred, but following a hiatus and a five-year gap between albums, frontman James Mercer and a largely new group of musicians have returned to form with “Heartworms.” Tracks like “Name For You” and “Painting a Hole” give “Heartworms” solid energy to start things off. “Cherry Hearts” recalls some of post-Talking Heads David Byrne material, and “Half a Million” has some wonderful New Wave qualities. And because the band will forever be associated with Zach Braff, it includes “So Now What,” featured in the second Braff movie, which no one saw. But, hey, you can enjoy it here. “Heartworms” contains the work of a reenergized Mercer, though it comes across as a bit scattershot. With one or two songs cut (with “So Now What” as the leading contender), the album would be a little more focused. But after a five-year break, a bit of rust is understandable. Crap, there should probably be a Zach Braff reference in this paragraph, too. Um, Phillip Litt. There, deep cut. ♦


Prep Iowa

Jordan Mayland cover“This Mess”

Jordan Mayland & The Thermal Detonators

Nova Labs

Jordan Mayland is one of the most prolific and versatile musicians in central Iowa. Don’t like the band he’s playing with this week? Next week’s might be more your style. Of all the acts Mayland has played with, The Thermal Detonators is the only one he’s stamped with his name. It gives the impression that it’s the band he’s focusing his more personal material into. Despite the name, “This Mess” feels like a polished album. Once a solo project, The Thermal Detonators have grown into a full-fledged band, with Claire Kruessel, Paul Hertz, Dave Atchison, Frank McBroom and Sean Huston backing him up. The process seems to have freed Mayland up creatively and gives the songs room to breathe. If there’s one complaint to make, it’s that he could have let them breathe a little more. Few tracks on “This Mess” last more than 3 minutes. When he goes more than 5 minutes on “Heart Beats,” it makes the song feel like a mini epic by comparison. “This Mess” demonstrates Mayland’s continued growth as a songwriter, and the more collaborative nature shows his growth as an artist. Keep an eye on this Mayland kid; he might be on to something. ♦




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