When you write about music, you have to be a realist. Bands break up and get back together all the time, and quite often it has to do with money. No one should be surprised by that: To paraphrase someone I once interviewed, you have to remember that "music" isn't the most important word in the phrase "music business." Still, I found myself deeply annoyed when it came out that Shins main man James Mercer was firing his bandmates a few years ago. There's something undeniably communal about the Shins' music, which rides high on its vulnerable, delicate humanism. Well, I thought so, anyway. But Mercer claims the lineup change was an "aesthetic decision" -- "I started to have production ideas that I wanted to do that basically required some other people," he said in 2009 -- although to me it feels like divorcing the wife who stuck with you during the tough times and marrying the actress once you get famous. But, like I said, it's completely silly to hold grudges about things like that.
This brings us to their new song, "Simple Song." By all rights, it's a very conventional Shins song: pretty melody, lilting vocals, big chorus hook. Couldn't the old members have done it just as well? That's not for me to say. But I confess I can't quite shake off a bit of bitterness about the whole thing. That's my problem, not Mercer's -- but I do wonder if other old-school fans like me aren't feeling the same thing at the moment.