January 10, 2012

Song Review: The Shins' "Simple Song"

The moment where Natalie Portman places a pair of oversized headphones over Zach Braff's head in 2004's Garden State as "New Slang" creeps into the scene will forever be remembered (for better or for worse) as the same moment that The Shins became fashion statement posterboys for indie rock with commercial appeal. Even with a slight misstep in 2007's high-profile release Wincing the Night Away, a shakeup in the band's lineup and frontman James Mercer dedicating his time to other projects, the Albuquerque quintet has somewhat bafflingly maintained relevance without doing much over the past half decade. Five years later, however, The Shins are reemerging onto the scene with a brand new album, Port of Morrow that has the former Sub Pop stars now working with the major label bigwigs at Columbia Records, and the influence of their new bedfellows is glaring on the LP's first single, "Simple Song." All the delightful signs of a Shins song are in attendance here, but magnified through bigger production where the "oohs" and "ahhs" of sweeping backing vocals and bright melodies are multiplied to anthemic levels. Structurally, "Simple Song" is a fitting title for the track, as James Mercer has penned a poptastic jangly tune in the classic verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus formula that's primed for radio airplay. The truth is that he and The Shins have always been destined for mass appeal, and despite it taking a bit longer than expected for them to get there, "Simple Song" is a fine-tuned achievement showing Mercer is at last comfortable balancing himself as an indie darling and mainstream influence.

The Shins - "Simple Song"

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