Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Broken Bells - Broken Bells

Yes, yet another music review today! A new record! As I've reported before, Broken Bells is a new project from The Shins lead singer, James Mercer, and famed producer/musician Danger Mouse, billed this time by his real name, Brian Burton. While it may sound like a new Shins album at first, mainly in part to Mercer's fantastic vocals, you'll soon find that that Broken Bells sound much different, and the result is pretty fantastic, albeit a bit short.

The album opens up with "The High Road," a track that was actually released for free a couple months ago, so I've had plenty of listening time with this one. It sounds a bit like The Shins 2007's album Wincing the Night Away, particularly the track, "Sleep Lessons," but with much more of a beat to it. The following song, "Vaporize," once again, opens up in a very Shins-like sound, but soon the organs and drum beats come in, and it's here that you really hear the separation from The Shins. It's a hard to explain, but it really does sound like "what if Danger Mouse produced a Shins album and changed their sound completely".

"Your Head Is On Fire" continues with the Shins-in-space kind of sound this album has, even if a bulk of the track is just instrumental. "The Ghost Inside," is probably the most strikingly different track on the album, thanks to the use of falsetto voices and digital effects. The same goes for the next track, "Sailing to Nowhere," which even brings in a piano and orchestra, further distancing Broken Bells' sound from The Shins.

One of my favorite tracks on the album, "Trap Doors," comes next. I can't figure out why I like it so much, but the change in tone throughout the track is nice, and it's a beat you can snap your fingers to. The next song, "Citizen," is the albums longest, and slowest when it comes to pace. It's not bad, but in comparison to the other tracks, it might make you a bit sleepy. "October" continues on with the piano-rock-esque sound, but it definitely has a lot more life to it than the previous track, and is ultimately more enjoyable.

The ninth track, "Mongrel Heart," is nearly as long as "Citizen," but is much more upbeat and doesn't feel like as much of a drag. In fact, I'd consider it one the album's highlights, as it does a good job of capturing Broken Bells unique sound. And then it comes to the final track, "The Mall & Misery," which is very Shins-like again, mainly because of the vocal harmonies, but has enough of a heavy drum beat to make it feel different, and overall is just a great track.

Broken Bells, the album, is a really interesting collection of music. I came into it as both a fan of The Shins and Danger Mouse, and I got an album that really spoke two both aspects equally. But chances are, most people checking this album out are Shins fans only, having waited since 2007 for new material. They'll probably be pleased, but it should be clear that Broken Bells is not The Shins, just as The Postal Service was not Death Cab For Cutie, the voice might be similar, but the sound is all its own. As for Danger Mouse fans, it's definitely some of his best work, which is great because I wasn't to big on what he did with The Black Keys' last album; this more or less made up for that. I just only wish there were more tracks on this album, because 37 minutes is just too short for these guys to express themselves.

Overall Score: 9.3/10

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