It was a safe bet that I was going to like at least 50% of the new Broken Bells self-titled album, being that I am a Shins lover through and through.
Broken Bells of course being the collaboration between Shins front man James Mercer and producer Danger Mouse, nee Brian Burton. The reason for only at least 50% is that I’m not super familiar with Burton’s work, except for his producer credits on Beck’s Modern Guilt, Gorillaz’s Demon Days and also Gnarls Barkley… hmm, maybe me and DM are tighter than I thought?
One of my favourite things about James Mercer is his voice. I love everything about it; the volume, the pitch, the timbre and the words it croons. On this new, self-titled album it did not disappoint, wrapping itself around me like an old friend in songs like the ‘The High Road’ and ‘Trap Doors’, and pulling out some pleasantly surprising higher notes in ‘Sailing To Nowhere’ and ‘Float’, which is my hit pick track off the album.
I’m trying to figure out what I think the points of difference are between The Shins and Broken Bells. Word on the street is that Mercer and Burton do not want Broken Bells to be thought of as a side project, but a bona-fide band proper.
To be perfectly honest, I’m finding it impossibly hard to do that, (evident in the fact I’ve already typed The Shins five times), but Mercer’s voice is so goddamn distinct, I can’t help but pigeonhole, as much as I wish I wouldn’t.
The whole thing is probably a little neater, tighter and shinier than Mercer’s work with, you know, that other band, (not that I mind the looseness of them at all), but interestingly, I’m not finding myself as drawn to the lyrics as I usually am.
That said, I’m digging the instrumentation and melodies, and the chilled out yet engaging patterns formed in and by the music, which is no doubt down to the slick production work of my old pal Danger Mouse.
Broken Bells haven’t shattered my earth or broken my ground, but this is a consistent and interesting album that’s encouraging me to think outside the box by (trying) not to put others in one.
In mini-mix news, I’m keeping it short, sweet and local and also keeping it in the hell’s bells family. There are two great new songs out at the moment by Sydney indie darlings Bridezilla (who, in an arduous play on words would surely cause broken wedding bells) and The Jezabels, plus an old favourite from Belles Will Ring, courtesy of Shoot The Player. Enjoy pretty kitties, Dazzle you next week x
Bridezilla – Western Front
The Jezabels – Hurt Me
Belles Will Ring – Park Benches