Uber-indie stars the Shins return, with the distinctive vocals of James Mercer (above) hitting the high registers on Heartworms (March 10, Columbia). Mercer himself largely produced his band’s first new album in almost five years. Listen up for bright, pop-laced odes to female empowerment, lamentations on aging, and light, tight tributes to unrequited love.
Corvallis’s Elena Passarello begins Animals Strike Curious Poses (Sarabande Books, February 28) with a 39,000-year-old woolly mammoth called Yuka and ends with Cecil the lion, killed by an American hunter last year. They’re two of 17 individual animals that lend their names to the eloquent, imaginative essays in this collection, which shed as much light on human impulses as they do on their beastly subjects.
The, er, Event
Folk rockers Blitzen Trapper are behind a “new musical event” at Portland Center Stage (March 16–April 30), a fantastical tale about “ordinary Americans” melding music, storytelling, and some serious theatrics. Yeah. You might just have to be there.
Portland poet Elyse Fenton follows 2007’s award-winning debut Clamor with Sweet Insurgent (Saturnalia, March 15), offering intimate, lyrical explorations of the gaps and overlaps between birth, death, love, and war.