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Broken Bells: Broken Bells

by on August 27, 2010


What happens when producing legend Danger Mouse and indie rock legend James Mercer come together? They form Broken Bells. How can it be described? Well, it’s something like an experimental pop/rock album, marketed through a psychedelic, changes-with-where-your-mouse-goes website with a psychedelic, interactive music video. To put it bluntly – these guys are geniuses. Their self-titled debut (although these guys are seasoned vets…) album is one of the best albums of 2010, if not of the decade.

Built off of catchy riffs with dreamy synthesizers, Broken Bells somehow pulls experimental and pop together to create songs that are interesting, yet easy to sing along to. Take the track “Your Head Is On Fire”, for instance. It begins with an effected drum kit, slightly harmonized vocals, and jungle-like synthesizer noises. Not typically a catchy song right? However, Mercer and Danger Mouse make use of the strong bass line to keep the song in check, even when it seems like it’s going too far out. The real catch of the song, however, is at around forty seconds, when the track suddenly breaks into a heartfelt pop melody with Mercer singing along to and acoustic guitar and drums. The chorus finally hits and the synth pops back in and one can’t help but have a smile cross their face. Familiarity and repetition are how these guys make experimentation work.

The rest of the album follows a similar format. All of the songs are a ton of fun to listen to, and they all have catchy, sing-along ready choruses. The album’s opener, as well as its first single, “The High Road”, is a tune that has Danger Mouse’s signature drumming as well as a wonderful blend of acoustic guitar and synthesizer. To move on to more radio-ready tunes, “The Ghost Inside” (also the second single off the album), features Mercer’s falsetto vocals along with a synth-led chorus that shouts pop radio.

Personally, my favorite song on the album is “Trap Doors”. It is an indie rock anthem with layers upon layers of synth and light acoustic guitar to back it up. Mercer’s vocals are effected so that it seems as if he is singing through a megaphone, and the song builds tension as the root-fifth movement of the final layer of synths brings the song into the chorus. Instead of layers of synth, the chorus features layers of vocals, some hummed, some sung. The blend is gorgeous, and the song flows perfectly together.

If you haven’t listened to Broken Bells, it is, in my opinion, required listening. An other-worldly combination of two geniuses in their own fields, Broken Bells takes the traditional pop formula and morphs it to fit an indie audience. It is a short album – clocking in at just thirty-five minutes – but with just the right amount of experimentation and catchy hooks, Broken Bells is no doubt one of the best albums of 2010.


By the way, check out the website, it’s actually really cool.

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