Simple Song By The Shins: Lyrics Meaning And Interpretation

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The Shins are an American indie rock band who started their journey in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1996 but are now based in Portland, Oregon. Their sound takes inspiration from multiple musical genres like pop, folk, indie rock and alternative rock. Mercer has been the only constant member of their changing line up. Currently, it includes Yuuki Matthews (bassist, keyboardist), Mark Watrous (guitarist, keyboardist), Casey Foubert (guitarist), Patti King (keyboardist) and Jon Sortland (drummer).

James Mercer has established himself as one of indie rock’s finest songwriters over the course of five albums. He is known for combining fervent and at times wry lyricism with subtly infectious and instantly memorable melodies. Their first two albums, Oh, Inverted World (2001) and Chutes Too Narrow (2003) were received well critically and commercially. “New Slang” became their breakthrough hit after being featured on the 2004 Natalie Portman-starrer Garden State.

By the time of their third record, Wincing the Night Away (2007), The Shins had rocketed from an underground word-of-mouth sensation to nationally famous indie rock stars. They topped the Billboard charts in physical sales, landed on Apple commercials and even earned a Grammy nomination. Their fourth studio album Port of Morrow (2012) and fifth album Heartworms (2017) were released with hiatuses in between.

Mercer is inspired by his real life, family and social themes to make music. The song “Phantom Limb” is about a young lesbian couple dealing with homophobia in the small town they reside in. The Shins are known for their creative music videos that are often dissonant with the lyrics. “The Rifle’s Spiral” is a song about a suicide bomber but the video has interestingly animated the story of a magician via stop-motion. “Simple Song” is a happy love song but the video satirically shows three children attending the funeral of their father played by Mercer. Let us analyze Simple Song lyrics meaning.

What Does The Title Mean

Simple Song” was written by James Mercer as an ode to his wife. It is an indie pop song that celebrates all the ordinary things that make up the extraordinary force of love. Blending rich natural imagery with vulnerable lyricism, the song is a straightforward confession to the love of his life. It talks about the life-changing effects true love has on someone by taking a no-frills approach. The love song was inspired by the confidence he acquired from their very strong relationship and the hopeful future that lay ahead of them after marriage.

Love has the universal quality to make someone a happier, braver and more confident human being. This is also the case for Mercer who penned this special song in his apartment’s living room. The song was finished soon after his marriage and in the period before their first daughter was born. “Simple Song” was released as the first single from Port of Morrow. Read on to know more about Simple Song lyrics meaning and explanation.

Verse 1 – What Does It Mean

“Well this is just a simple song

To say what you done

I told you ’bout all those fears

And away they did run

You sure must be strong

And you feel like an ocean

Made warm by the sun”

Mercer says the song is going to be a simple declaration about how his wife changed his life for the better. He says their love has the potency to vanquish all his fears and doubts. She makes him feel safe and we get a sense of the true partnership between them that makes him feel like he can take on the entire world with her by his side. The vast and infinite ocean is a symbol of limitless freedom. The sun shining down on it creates a picture of serenity, warmth and abundance. These are all qualities exemplified by finding a home in someone. Through Simple Song lyrics meaning, he says her love makes him feel secure, invincible and liberated.

Verse 2 – What Does It Mean

“When I was just nine years old

I swear that I dreamt

Your face on a football field

And a kiss that I kept

Under my vest;

Apart from everything

But the heart in my chest”

Love often leaves you turning over the million-dollar question: Why didn’t I meet them sooner? Lucky for Mercer, he’s very sure his wife is the girl of his dreams that have been haunting him since he was nine years old. Simple Song lyrics meaning suggests she is probably his ideal romantic partner and the person he’s always wanted to meet in life. He sees all his dreams and hopes that he grew up longing for embodied in her. He references what feels like a scene from every high school movie: the hero’s victory on the football field overturned by the real triumph of a kiss he shares with his beloved. Mercer feels like he’s known her his entire life and he’s safeguarded the memory of this kiss from his dream in the depths of his heart.

What Does The Chorus Mean

“I know that things can really get rough when you go it alone

Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough, and play like a stone

Could be there’s nothing else in our lives, so critical

As this little home”

The chorus sees Mercer crooning that he’ll always be there for her just as she has been for him and they are in this together for life. There is no need for her to encounter challenges alone or act tough when she feels down. He is always ready to share the weight of her burdens. He ponders what is every lover’s truth that perhaps there is nothing in this world as paramount as their relationship. Like a “little home”, they built their love from the ground up with trust, companionship and resilience.

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Verse 3 – What Does It Mean

“My life in an upturned boat

Marooned on a cliff

You brought me a great big flood

And you gave me a lift

Girl, what a gift!

You tell me with your tongue

And your breath was in my lungs

And we float up through the rift”

He says he was lost and stranded, metaphorically stuck in a capsized boat on a cliff that was thrown far away from its natural habitat. She was his savior who came riding the waves of true love to bring the deluge to him. Taking away his despair and flooding his life with happiness and direction, she gave him the gift of a meaningful existence. He remembered the purpose of life and regained the inspiration he had lost after meeting her. Simple Song lyrics meaning also talks about the passion and excitement they share as lovers. They unify their hearts and souls with a kiss to a point they become the same being. The feeling is so exhilarating and intoxicating that he feels like he’s floating above everything.

Verse 4 – What Does It Mean

“Remember walking a mile to your house

Aglow in the dark

I made a fumbling play for your heart

And the act struck a spark

You wore a charm on the chain that I stole

Especial for you

Love’s such a delicate thing that we do

With nothing to prove

Which I never knew”

Mercer recalls the first time he walked a mile glowing with joy and confidence to awkwardly convey his romantic feelings for her. He was met with green signal and she accepted his heart along with the chain he got for her. He says only after meeting her did he come to realize that love is such a curious delicate thing that needs no justification to anyone in this world. It doesn’t need grand romantic gestures to announce itself and it is enough if only the two people in love are aware of the genuine connection they share. Love in its simplest purest form exists with nothing to prove and is fulfilled as long as the lovers hold on to each other. Simple Song lyrics meaning concludes with Mercer saying he never knew this truth until she walked into his life.


The Shins have etched an indelible mark in the hearts of people everywhere with the jangly sway and sweet but profound Simple Song lyrics meaning. The music video has raked up over 16 million views on YouTube and is adored for its artistic vision. The song was even featured in an episode of the American sitcom How I Met Your Mother. It is a testament to the band’s signature indie groove and melodious guitar riffs.

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