Review Summary: Broken Bells release an extremely solid first effort.
It surprises me very much that there was so little hype about the formation and first release of this band. Broken Bells was formed by the lead singer and guitarist for The Shins, James Mercer, and Danger Mouse, who is a producer of electronic/trip hop music. Before listening to this album I was skeptical as to whether or not it would be any good, because even though a combination of Indie Rock and Electronic music can succeed quite well (e.g. Vampire Weekend), the specific brand of indie/pop that The Shins pull off fairly well doesn’t seem like it could work with the introduction of synth and electronic melodies.
Being the new band’s very first release, I give Broken Bells a pass. By no means is this an amazing album, but it does set a solid foundation for them to build upon. The album is not without its excellent tracks. In fact there are a few songs off of this album which I could call favorites of 2010 thus far. For example, the album’s first single, ‘The High Road’, is an extremely addictive pop song which is full of simple and soft yet affective guitar chords and light piano in the distant background. The chorus of this song is catchy and stands out amongst the other parts of the song because of its electronic melody, since most of the song is void of electronic sounds. Another standout track would be ‘Sailing to Nowhere’. Starting off with a dreamy, albeit sad electronic melody, it truly embodies the feeling of being lost; metaphorically or physically. For some reason this song reminds me a lot of Origin of Symmetry-era Muse. Maybe it’s the piano interlude found towards the end of the song or the way you get captured by the piano/synth in a similar way found in the song ‘New Born’. Every song on the album is beautifully produced and the electronic melodies and sounds are layered perfectly with the guitar and vocals.
Even though it contains such perfect songs as the two I described in my previous paragraph, Broken Bells’ first effort is an extraordinarily top-heavy album. I mean this in the sense of it having the majority of its good songs in its first half and after that it starts to drag on tremendously. By the time I reach ‘The Waiting Game’, I find myself checking to see how much is left or I just become extremely bored. There aren’t really any great changes in the music from the first to the second half except songs seem to be less captivating and a little more boring. This is not to say that all the songs sound similar, because they don’t. In fact, every single song on this album is different and none of them run together. The electronics remain new and interesting throughout the entire album, it is more the individual songs that get a little less intense.
Overall the album is a very solid first effort. ‘Sailing to Nowhere’ is actually an incredible song, so if you aren’t really interested in the whole album, I insist that you give that song a good chance. James Mercer and Danger Mouse are in it for the long haul with this project so expect more and more from Broken Bells. Judging by the foundation they've laid on this first release I expect their second album to be even more excellent.
Final Rating: 3.5/5