I‘ve always loved The Shins. Their music has always had a refreshing quality to it, like a breath of fresh air, or a curtain opening up to let in the beautiful sunlight. It takes listening to only the first few seconds of “Caring is Creepy” to put a huge smile on my face. When I first got into The Shins, songs like “Saint Simon” or “So Says I,” filled me with bursts of freedom. And The Shins felt so distinct. There was nothing like it. I could recognize Mercer’s voice and his perfect articulation of words in a heartbeat. The lyrics made me think. It was pop music, but it did not feel anything like pop. For these reasons, I felt relieved when I heard about their new single, “So Now What,” which ended their two-year drought of new music. (a drought I pushed through only by listening to Mercer’s side project Broken Bells). But I feel mixed about “So Now What.” On one hand, it sounds just like I’d expect the Shins to sound. Mercer’s voice is still incredible. The timbres of the instruments share the same distinct Shins sound I’ve grown to love. But the song doesn’t move anywhere. Throughout the song, I found myself asking the same question the title proposed–“So Now What?” The lyrics, though simple and beautiful, feel painfully static. Throughout the song, the whole narrative remains static. It’s locked in a confused, fantasy world, one that gave director Zach Braff goosebumps every time he heard it. Context here is important: Zach Braff personally asked Mercer to write a song for his movie, Wish I Was Here, a story of a father in his 30’s trying to find a purpose in life. Mercer wrote the song just after watching the movie. Perhaps then, the dreamy, passive quality to the new single reflects the elusiveness of purpose, or the dreamy, washed up state in which we find ourselves when we spend just a little too much time searching. Perhaps it needed to be static to fit so perfectly for Braff’s work. If that’s the case, although the new single does not quite reflect the Shins I love, it sure does its job well.