Want to feel old? Then here we go: It's been 13 years - 13! - since Natalie Portman promised a small band from Albuquerque would "change your life".

It's nearly impossible to review a new Shins album and not mention that zeitgeist-grabbing moment from Zach Braff's Garden State, a movie that, if we're being honest, has aged pretty badly.

But it was the moment that launched James Mercer's cult twee-folksters firmly into the mainstream, a position they never seemed entirely comfortable with.

It showed: their last two releases Wincing the Night Away and Port of Morrow saw Mercer get more and more insular, self-reflecting so much it almost felt like he was singing to himself in a mirror while picking scabs from his face.


So it's time for fans to rejoice: Heartworms, the fifth Shins record, one that's self-produced by Mercer with an entirely new band, recaptures that weird awkward magic that made Portman's character swoon.

It helps that Mercer's rediscovered his way with a world-weary metaphor. "Given all the drops in the ocean / Better take it one sip at a time," he croons on opener Name For You, The Shins' jauntiest summer love jam since Young Pilgrims.

Elsewhere, there's more electronic experimentation on offer on the Daft Punk quirk of Cherry Hearts and the woozy chamber pop of Fantasy Island, which is probably a result of Mercer's work with DJ Danger Mouse on Broken Bells but feels entirely fitting here.

At other times they fully rock out: Half A Million is an indie-punk jam that has Mercer uttering lines like, "I took the drugs but the drugs won't take," like he's a character in that great Trainspotting sequel, while Painting a Hole's fuzzy throb is an eccentric statement of intent.

It won't make you want to watch Garden State again. But Heartworms is good enough to make you feel warm fuzzy nostalgia feels for a time when Zach Braff movies were good and Mumford & Sons hadn't ruined folk with their stupid banjos.

That's quite the achievement. Take a bow, James Mercer, take a bow. Natalie Portman from 13 years ago applauds you.

The Shins - Heartworms
Label: Columbia
Stars: Four
Verdict: They might change your life - again