Albums Of The Week

Bands' one-man shows

The Shins' James Mercer (above) is singer, songwriter, multiinstumentalist and producer on Heartworms.
The Shins' James Mercer (above) is singer, songwriter, multiinstumentalist and producer on Heartworms.PHOTO: SONY MUSIC

The latest releases by indie rock acts The Shins and Grandaddy involve work by one member taking on multiple roles

The new albums by The Shins and Grandaddy, two lauded names in American indie rock, have more in common than just masterful songcraft and copious amounts of arresting hooks.

They are both fifth albums for acts that trace their roots to the 1990s. And while they are not billed as such, the recordings in both releases are pretty much one-man shows.

Heartworms is essentially the work of James Mercer, who wears multiple hats as singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer.

While he experiments with a wide variety of sounds in the 11 tracks, the summery flourishes and sun-kissed melodies prevalent throughout the release make for a cohesive listening experience.

  • INDIE ROCK/ ELECTRONIC POP

  • The Shins' James Mercer (above) is singer, songwriter, multiinstumentalist and producer on Heartworms.HEARTWORMS

    The Shins

    Columbia

    4/5 stars

    INDIE ROCK

    The Shins' James Mercer (above) is singer, songwriter, multiinstumentalist and producer on Heartworms.LAST PLACE

    Grandaddy

    30th Century Records

    3.5/5 stars

Songs such as Rubber Ballz and opening tune Name For You are perky, power-pop gems that owe much to Herman's Hermits-like 1960s pop, while electronic-pop track Painting A Hole and albumcloser The Fear feature exotic, meandering melodies.

There is a lot of 1960s/1970s Bowie vibes going on elsewhere, from the stuttered phrases and echoladen vocals in Dead Alive to the yearning, psychedelic folk of the title track.

Last Place, Grandaddy's first album since they reformed in 2012 and a release that comes more than a decade after 2006's Just Like The Fambly Cat, is almost entirely the work of frontman, guitarist, keyboardist, songwriter and producer Jason Lytle.

His warm, analogue synthesizers, straightforward rhythms and fuzzy guitars are a throwback to indie rock from musically simpler times, before the advent of electronic sounds so prevalent in the genre's contemporary releases.

Being less adventurous does not make the songs any less captivating, though, and Lytle has lost none of his ability to draw the listener in with his tuneful songcraft.

Layered, harmonised singing aside, his new batch of songs comes from a dark place - they were written and recorded while he was going through a divorce.

"This is the part/The ending to the start/Where there was calm/ It's only going wrong," he laments wistfully on melancholic, orchestral ballad This Is The Part.

To make matters worse, his recent move to rainy Portland seemed to have dampened his mood further, as evidenced by the song I Don't Wanna Live Here Anymore ("Everything is outta place, now I'm having trouble dealing/I just moved here and I don't wanna live here anymore").

You cannot help but feel for him as you soak in the elegant beauty of his dreamy melodies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2017, with the headline 'Bands' one-man shows'. Print Edition | Subscribe