I had been a fan of James Mercer through his other band, the Shins, for some time prior to the release of this album. After the Shins 2007 release, Wincing the Night Away, it seemed that the band had come to an end. Although they had a great selection of songs I was pretty bummed that one of my favorite ‘modern’ bands would no longer be releasing new music (note: they have reformed and released two more since). When it was announced that Mercer was working on a new album, I was elated. Hoping for new Shins music I was somewhat dismayed when he dropped today’s album but, the moment it hit my speakers, I realized that this was something special.
Why This Album?
Broken Bells, as an album and a band, is the collaboration of James Mercer and famed sound wizard Brian Burton AKA Danger Mouse. I refer to Danger Mouse as a ‘sound wizard’ because frankly I can’t think of any other description for his incredible talent. He is a musician who can play pretty much any instrument and in almost any genre having worked with everyone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Ceelo Green. Mercer himself is no stranger to sound wizardry having worked with the likes of Issac Brock of Modest Mouse while also playing instruments such as the glockenspiel many others. With Mercer and Burton behind the wheel, Broken Bells turned out to be something that almost transcends description.
This first album is a sonic journey stemming from both Mercer’s and Burton’s past experience and their mutual love for sound design. At moments it seems to channel the BeeGee’s, The Beatles and even a touch of Modest Mouse while always remaining fully accessible with each track. There are hints of Mercer’s Shin’s dusted throughout the album but it is truly a unique creation that pulls you in and insists that you return once the last track finishes.
Broken Bells have released only one other Studio album (After The Disco) as well as a smattering of EP’s since this album’s release but their first Self Titles album will always have a special place in my heart. There is something transcendent about it that just sweeps you away. This is the perfect album for a rainy afternoon, a relaxing bath or just to take some time to get away from everything. Mercer and Burton have created magic and it is apparent in each and every note on each and every song.
Like so many others, this is a tough call. Honestly the album should be listened to in it’s entirety and enjoyed as a single work of art but, sure, I guess I can choose a couple that I think will get you to realize the magnificence of this album.
Citizen: This is one that feels very introspective but also as a warning of things to come. It talks about how we are all citizens of this planet, not just our own respective countries and we have to start thinking globally before it’s too late. It’s an enchanting song that at times channels a bit of BeeGee Andy Gibb but slightly more subdued.
Vaporize Starting with a simple guitar riff that is almost Shins like blends into gorgeous organs and brass making this a unique entry. Seeming to be about an inevitable end of something, be it a relationship or something more existential, it is a song that seems to be a warning that things will get worse before they get better.
Your Head Is On Fire. I love the opening chanting in this one combined with the rather cosmic feel. It’s a gorgeous song that warns of a vengeful heart.
Ok, Where do I get it?
The physical release of this one is getting harder to find these days but if you are patient you will see it pop up here from time to time. Until then, please check them out on Spotify. They are indeed something special.
Late to the Game 5/5/2020
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