Broken Bells
Broken Bells



by Violinist USER (2 Reviews)
June 12th, 2011 | 3 replies

Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Mercer finds someone new to play with, and the result is well worth your time...

I picked up Broken Bells just to see what James Mercer came up with after shutting down The Shins. The guy is a great vocalist, and a lyricist par excellence. If Danger Mouse was along for the ride to inject some electronica into the mix, it seemed to be a safe buy.

The High Road - the one track on the album that reeks of commercial sensibilities and had me wondering if I just wasted my money. The song starts out strong enough, with Mercer's vocals and lyrics quickly reining in what might otherwise have been a straight up dose of teeny-bopper pop. The verses have a downcast feel to them with lyrics to match, but the choruses (especially the endlessly repeating chorus to the end of the song) drip with sickly sweet melodies. 5/10

Vaporize - things are looking up with this track. Mercer crafts lyrics about the inevitable replacement of youthful hopes and dreams with the adult realization that time has moved by and here you are another average joe. Good music as well - a blend of rock with a bit of folk and subtle electronics that mesh together very well. 8/10

Your Head is on Fire - another track with lyrics that seem to be talking about everything that is mundane in life (Mercer's lyrics being open to interpretation as usual). Strange musical underpinnings that mix ambient sounds with beatlesesque psychedelia. Seems like a piece that they might have let breathe a bit, but your out in just about 3 minutes flat. 7/10

The Ghost Inside - with repeated listens, this has become one of my favorite tracks on the album. The electronica is at the forefront here, and a smooth pulsing rhythm accentuates lyrics that take you take you to the seedier side of life. 9/10

Sailing to Nowhere - a track that bounces between upbeat and downcast movements, more beatles type interludes and lyrics that I still can't make heads or tails of. This is what I was hoping for from Mercer and what I really enjoyed about The Shins lyrically. Paint an abstract and let my mind figure out the details. 9/10

Trap Doors - the opening 20 seconds or so remind me of the soundtrack to some 80's video game. Get past that, and the music and vocals take you on a mellow ride that is over far too soon. 9/10

Citizen - another dark track that periodically lets a ray of light in during the choruses before sinking back into the depths. Great lyrics on this one, though the schizophrenic nature of the music itself grates a bit. 7/10

October - not a bad track, and if you removed the electronic additions to the music this could have been right at home on a Shins disc. Mercer's vocals shine here, with the music plodding along beneath. 7/10

Mongrel Heart - to me, this is the highlight of the album. A perfect blend of Danger Mouses's musical leanings with Mercer's vocals and lyrics that perfectly match the sonic soundscape. The anthemic interlude about 2/3rd of the way through seems so radically out place, but manages to fit in perfectly. 10/10

The Mall and Misery - "I know what I know would not fill a thimble". Great lyrics on this track, and the music is a perfect blend of orchestrated string accompaniment, folk guitar and electronic beats pounding on beneath beautifully layered vocals. 10/10

If the last two tracks on this disc are a sign of things to come, I hope this marriage of artists lasts for quite a while.

user ratings (542)
other reviews of this album
kingsoby1 EMERITUS (4.5)
Buy this. Buy the vinyl. Buy ten....

clavichordwolf (2.5)
Superficial art pop that fails to leave anything in the way of an impact, "Broken Bells" is forty mi...

thepaintedalice (4.5)
Beautiful, invigorating, addictive. A must have....

ShadowAmI (3.5)
Broken Bells release an extremely solid first effort....

Comments:Add a Comment 
June 13th 2011


Good review.
Needs a conclusion though.

June 13th 2011


Do try to avoid making track-by-track reviews in the future; they're harder to read/follow and not quite as interesting. Also, you refer to yourself quite a lot in this review; I understand how tempting that can be, but each time you do that it really does take away from the objectivity and impartiality of the writing.

Won't pos, but won't neg either.

June 13th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

Great album. Good review. Although I really like The High Road myself.

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