For Broken Bells, “Artist of the week” doesn’t quite cut it.
Broken Bells are essentially a two-piece band, made up of James Mercer and Danger Mouse. Mercer is front man of the Grammy award-nominee indie-rock band The Shins; Danger Mouse is not only a part of Gnarls Barkley and Danger Doom, but also producer for countless successful acts including The Black Keys, Gorillaz, Beck, Frank Ocean and more. Danger Mouse has won five Grammies in multiple categories and many other awards.
It almost gets tiring mentioning the awards and nominations these two have nabbed. Their self-titled 2010 debut album – the only one to date – was nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 2011. The award was in fact won by The Black Key’s album Brothers, which was, funnily enough, produced by Danger Mouse. Even though The Black Keys are undoubtedly a great band, it was a bit of a shame Broken Bells didn’t take it out, as I think there are few rock bands that can pull of such an amorphous debut album.
While every song is different, as a package the album maintains a streamlined feel. Unusual, non-traditional sounds and samples mix naturally into the sea of dreamy guitars, organs and string instruments before drums are thrown in.
What is really great about the album is it feels like it could be a soundtrack to your childhood, something you may have heard in your dreams as a kid walking around your favourite imaginary theme park. There are so many twists and turns that it constantly keeps you guessing, yet it makes you feel like you’ve known these songs all along.
Mercer’s wistful and cryptic lyrics keep you guessing what each song is really about, until they finally crystallise in your mind. Once it makes sense, it can really hit home, which adds to the incredible replayability of the whole album.
I won’t go on to list or describe any particular songs as they should all be listened to – there’s not a single song out of place or out of character, nor a song you’d just casually hit the “next” button on.
But what’s really exciting is that now – four years later – Mercer and Danger Mouse have taken time away from their primary projects to record again and have announced that a new Broken Bells album will be released in February 2014. They have released a trailer for the album, which has a new track playing called Holding On For Life which is available on iTunes for download. This song is far superior to their 2011 EP – basically a collection of B-sides that did not match the standard of their album.
Be sure to check out the trailer and if you haven’t already, listen to their first album. On repeat. – Sion Weatherhead
Photo from Broken Bells’ Facebook.