Even if you haven’t heard of James Mercer, you’ve probably heard of the band for which he is most widely know—The Shins.
“You gotta hear this one song, it’ll change your life, I swear,” Natalie Portman’s character says to Zach Braff’s character in the movie Garden State in 2004. She passes him her headphones and The Shins song, New Slang, plays.
Life changing? I don’t know, maybe, but the song is certainly enchanting. It’s beautiful, haunting, and never seems to get old.
14 years later, The Shins are still around. They released an album, Heartworms, in 2017 and the “reimagined” version of that album, The Worm’s Heart, in 2018, but Mercer is the only member of the shins from 2004 that remains.
To most people, James Mercer is the Shins. Even when listening to Mercer’s other projects like Broken Bells, a collaboration with producer Danger Mouse that has spawned 2 albums and multiple tours, it feels like your listening to a Shins album.
Mercer’s voice and style are too unique, and unambiguously him for it to feel like anything else— even when Danger Mouse’s contribution and influence on those albums is obvious. This isn’t a problem for me! I think the idea of a Shins’ record with Danger Mouse producing/contributing is wonderful, and to me, that’s what we got with Broken Bells.
If you remember loving “that one Shins song” from Garden State 14 years ago (or the other Shins song on the soundtrack “Caring is Creepy”) but for some reason never dove any deeper into the band or Mercer’s other collaborations, take my advice and go deep. You’ll find some of the best songwriting around tucked deep into anything James Mercer touches.
This Spotify Playlist is a good place to start: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37i9dQZF1DWZyp9KgPL31Y
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