The Shins release new track, "Simple Song," and reveal new album plans

James Mercer has had no shortage of creative outlets over the last few years. But his main band, the Shins, have kept remarkably quiet since 2007's Wincing The Night Away, other than announcing that they were leaving their longtime label Sub Pop in '08. Mercer has now formed his own record label, Aural Apothecary, which will release Port Of Morrow on March 20, the first album from the Shins in nearly five years. Mercer plays most of the music found on the record, assisted by former Shins members Dave Hernandez and Marty Crandal (who no longer feature in the touring aspect of the band), Janet Weiss of Wild Flag, Eric Johnson of the Fruit Bats, and Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse. Mercer just made the first track from the album available, the plainly titled but still evocative "Simple Song." Give it a listen after the jump.

The pensive, relaxed number is lead by Mercer's mellifluous vocals and his penchant to build towards big choruses, along with some surprising guitar and keyboard flourishes. It's doesn't represent a new direction or style for the Shins, but after Mercer's Broken Bells experiment with Danger Mouse (as well as his backup vocal turns for Modest Mouse), it's nice to hear James in the forefront musically once again.

Mercer has announced a small handful of live shows for the Shins on the West Coast (including a slot at Coachella), but there is no news yet on a full-scale U.S. tour. But, given the spotty live shows I've seen from the Shins over the years, they have always been better on album than on stage for me. Their music loses a bit of its impact and resonance in a live setting, and, not to go all Natalie Portman on you, I've always preferred to listen to their music on a nice pair of headphones or on the warm, familiar comfort of my own home stereo.

Regardless, for those of us who have grown attached to the music of the Shins over the years, it's good to know that Mercer and company are indeed recording again, and I for one can't wait to hear the results. Port Of Morrow is available to pre-order now, including a deluxe-package that features the album on 1/4" reel-to-reel track tape, which is a nice, albeit slightly unwieldy option to have for music purists. I'll just stick to the vinyl, thank you very much. 

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