Track Review: The Shins, 'Simple Song'

Simple Song (4:15)
Producer: Greg Kurstin
Writer: James Mercer
Publisher: Lettuce Flavored Music (BMI)
Aural Apothecary/Columbia

Incredibly, it's been more than 10 years since the release of the Shins' debut "Oh Inverted World," and almost five since the band released its last album, "Wincing the Night Away." And while singer/songwriter James Mercer's Broken Bells project with Danger Mouse may have kept fans sated, it wasn't the Shins -- which, from its opening notes, "Simple Song" unmistakably is. Everything that drew fans to the band is here: a lilting melody, a gentle wash of echo, and verses that lead gradually but inexorably to a joyous but complex chorus that finds Mercer hitting the top of his vocal range. But the production (courtesy Greg Kurstin, who's worked with everyone from Lily Allen and the Flaming Lips to Kesha) is much more involved than the group's previous work, with keyboard- and guitar-driven counter-melodies playing off of the song's main line and giving the track a deceptive complexity. The change may be partially chalked up to a different lineup -- the album was largely crafted by Mercer and Kurstin, and although the old lineup contributes to the album, it apparently won't be touring with Mercer. With a new album, "Port of Morrow," due March 20, and a tour beginning in Las Vegas on April 13, expect the Shins to shake out of their hibernation with a busy 2012.

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