Isn't it nice to have a new Shins song in the world? They've been gone so long I think they may have even lost the sting of being an indie rock punchline (they never deserved it). That is, he, not they. James Mercer is the only original member left. If there was any question as to how the drastic lineup change would affect the group's sound, "Simple Song" answers with a resounding "not really." The only real difference I can discern is in the drumming—Janet Weiss, who sits in for this track, is a more forceful player than Jesse Sandoval, and production-wise her drums simply sound better.
But those are minor differences, really. This is a Shins song, just like all the others. Mercer is a consistently compelling songwriter, which is a positive way of saying he is predictable. He falls into a similar category as Rufus Wainwright, Bjork, and Britt Daniel of Spoon, among many others: his menu of rhythms and melodies is limited, but something about the quality of his voice and the effortlessness of his playing keeps that from mattering. "Simple Song" is like a Frankenstein's monster of past Shins songs: the melody of the chorus is an echo of the chorus from "Gone for Good" (itself a peppier, higher octave mold of the melody from the bridge to "Young Pilgrims"), and the girl-group rhythm was done before on "Turn on Me" and "Phantom Limb."
Here's the thing though: to say Mercer has done it before is not (necessarily) to say he's done it better. Or worse! Is it possible to find someone who has never heard the Shins before and do a Pepsi Challenge? It's just as likely that they'd say "Simple Song" is their favorite as "Turn on Me" or "Gone for Good." And why not? It's a similar song, but it's great song. Actually, it's a terrific song.