Review Summary: Buy this. Buy the vinyl. Buy ten.
Danger Mouse, indie-come-hip-hop producer extraordinaire, teams up with The Shins' vocalist/ guitarist James Mercer on their triumphant debut as Broken Bells. Expanding upon and perfecting the sound sought after for years by groups like Zero 7, the duo draws little from their prior discographies. In fact, Danger Mouse uses this opportunity to delve into more atmospheric and electronic-influenced pop production, while Mercer does less crooning instead favoring his own tasteful impression of rocking out. Multi-part harmony choruses, ad-libbing that makes sense, and even some trademark rhythmic folk-strumming -- these decidedly Mercer-esque qualities combine with the Mouse's 22nd century synths and penchant for the symphonic to favorable results (to say the very least). Each layer of sound, each vocal effect (be it a flanger or phaser), and each reverb laden instrumental sound emphasizes a mellow atmosphere. Although, some may be proponents of the criticism that Broken Bells
is far too "chilled out" to bring any progressive qualities to the table, this assertion couldn't be more wrong. One needs only listen to the "Sailing to Nowhere" to be convinced; each artist feeds off the other to achieve a real sense of urgency in the dreamy sonic background. Most of my regular readers may know this already -- my obsession with spaghetti-western compositions knows no bounds, and the "coda" section of this track was pure heroin for my addiction. Closer "The Mall & Misery" sums up everything quite nicely with a symphonic, finger-plucked intro, indie-pop saturated verses, and another beautiful chorus. It ends the way it started, fading this successful debut into nothing and demanding replay.
Broken Bells is the crown jewel of each musician's discography and is a necessity for fans of either one... yes, it trumps The Mouse & The Mask
, St. Elsewhere
, and Oh, Inverted World
collectively. Color this reviewer surprised, as I expected this to be completely terrible being a fan of neither beforehand. Buy this. Buy the vinyl. Buy ten.