Welcome to Check Your Mode

The all-inclusive, ever-changing, and uncomfortably flexible guide to all things music in the 2010's.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Broken Bells - Broken Bells: A-

Sometimes a record of exactly what you needed is exactly what you need. It sounds like a pretty innocuous thing to say, but I say it, because I am aware that I make a lot of noise on this platform about being different and constantly evolving a sound. I wholly submit myself to the constant search for the good, bad and ugly of progressive music, but I am also fully aware of the fact that there is always that basic human instinct in everyone where the familiar will be the ultimate satiator.

Broken Bells is the pairing of Shins singer, James Mercer, and Danger Mouse from Gnarls Barkley, Grey Album and miscellaneous production job fame. Together, they have written an album that does not extend the musical boundaries of either artist, but one that is extraordinarily satisfying. Shins fans will see this as a Shins album with a little more gospel influence and fans of Danger Mouse's work that have somehow never heard the Shins (I'm sure there are some) will see this as an adult-contemporary Gnarls Barkley. I'm fairly confident both parties will enjoy this album, though, because, for however easy it can be to draw upon the more-of-the-same quality of both acts on display, it's still quite good music, and it's hard to argue with melodies as potent as this.

The only remote curveball is "The Mall & Misery", which sounds like a coda to "Mongrel Heart", the song that preceeds it. It's a song that seems to start from the breakdown, something that you hardly hear in pop music, but, other than that, again, you're not going to hear sounds you've never heard before. Mercer's vocal presence is superb, especially on first single, "The High Road" and genuinely exuberant pop consistently oozes through every note. Off the cuff album collaborations have never sounded this much greater than the sum of its parts (I'm looking at you, Chickenfoot), and this pairing I would not mind hearing more music from. And, based on the news from both James Mercer and Danger Mouse's mainstays, it really looks like this is a case where everybody wins. Savor it.


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