Broken Bells – Broken Bells
Broken Bells is a collaboration between Danger Mouse & former Shins frontman James Mercer. It’s an interesting collaborations of two artists that I’ve always admired. So my expectations for this album were very, very high. I’m curious if these excellent musicians can meet those expectations.
The album features 10 alternative indie songs with a very interesting signature sound that really features the best of both artists backgrounds. The songs may be quite alternative, but they absolutely have commercial potential and carry a lot of intensity and even energy with them. Good beats and interesting rhythms and arrangements are the basis of a very solid album by this, well, new band.
The album starts off with The High Road, which is an interesting way to get things started. The song works well as an intro to the album as it grows in intensity. And after a few listens it sticks in your head remarkably well. It’s not a traditionally catchy song but it slowly anchors itself in there. Vaporize has a little more upbeat feel to it and is a good mix of the two artists different musical influences. It has a very catchy beat to it and has a groovy, alternative edge that makes the vocals come out very well. Possibly a future radio single.
The feel and pace of Your Head Is On Fire are very soothing and somewhat melancholic at the same time. It’s a good mix between peaceful and intriguing. And on top of that the arrangement is very good. It has a lot of strong points that you can only hear if you really listen to it. At first I wasn’t sure about the ending of the song, but now that I’ve grown accustomed to it, I think it actually works.
Lead single The Ghost Inside, is definitely one of the most catchy songs on the album. The higher vocals and the rhythmic feel (notice the clapping!) of the song make it an excellent choice to release to radio. You can’t get it out of your head, even if you wanted to. The song has a very current sound and yet completely different than I would have expected from this collaboration. It may be a surprise, but it’s a very pleasant one. The more laidback Sailing To Nowhere has that mix of peacefulness and melancholy again. It’s a somewhat eclectic track that comes to full shine as an album track. The effects, the arrangement, the vocals, the clever rhythmic parts and the accents in the song, they all seem to fall right into place. This may well be my favorite track on the album.
Trap Doors is another song that could do very well as a radio song. It has a current sound and while it, once again, isn’t traditionally catchy, it does have a very familiar and easy to recognize feel to it. In a way it reminds me of very early Snow Patrol, with the smoothness and edginess (yes you can achieve that in one and the same song) that this song displays.
Another one of my favorites is definitely Citizen, which has a very groovy, mysterious sound and really draws in the listener. And yet, it is also one of the more melodic tracks on the album. I was hoping we’d get to hear that side of these musicians and I’m glad they decided to take this direction too. It’s a very impressive and strong track that I think is pure ear candy to the music lovers. The more spunky and maybe even somewhat poppy October is a likely radio single, as it is quite catchy and has some very round, melodic parts in the vocal arrangement and has a very interesting chorus that could be a big hit in the alternative (and even mainstream) airwaves.
The uptempo and catchy Mongrel Heart continues the album and while it would make an excellent live song, I feel like it’s not one of the most inspirational tracks on the album. It has a lot of intensity and energy, which is why I feel this could be a very cool live song, but compared to some of the other tracks on the album it seems remarkably straight forward. Though as the song progresses and we get to the final 2 minutes, there is a very solid instrumental part that really is very cool. Album closer The Mall & Misery serves the opposite purpose as the opener (obviously!) but also musically it fulfills that role perfectly. Where The High Road made for a good intro to this album, The Mall & Misery works very well as an outtro with its pointy, catchy middle part and the slow sonic fade towards the end.
Broken Bells deliver on a their first album. It’s solid, it challenges the listener and it has potential of being picked up by the mainstream music scene. This is remarkable for an alternative album, but with two strong musical forces like Danger Mouse & James Mercer, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that they actually pulled it off. Already looking into a second album, we can only wait with anticipation with what they come up next.