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Music Review: Broken Bells – Broken Bells

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Danger Mouse made his mark in 2004 when he created the most notable mashup of Jay-Z’s Black Album. He melded The Beatles’ White Album with Jay-Z’s Black Album creating the critically praised Grey Album.

He later rose to even greater prominence when he formed Gnarls Barkley with Cee-lo Green. Now, Danger Mouse has teamed up with James Mercer; lead singer of the popular indie band The Shins. I’m not a big fan of The Shins, but I do like some of their music. I thought that the collaboration could be really interesting and it is.

“High Road” is a song of the year contender with its great driving chorus and interesting sound that integrates acoustic guitar with electronic sounds. “Vaporize” is a favorite as well with its organ-driven background track, booming bass, and cool horn-led bridge section. These first two tracks seem like a perfect melding of the artists’ sounds. They encapsulate what I expected and wanted to hear from this collaboration. Unfortunately, a few of the later tracks aren’t quite as palatable and some of the others took more listens to appreciate.

“Your Head Is on Fire” sounds like a less memorable Shins track me. “Sailing to Nowhere” was too non-descript for me. I may have been looking for really catchy hooks where I shouldn’t have. The same goes for “Citizen” with its sleepy sound and nothing to keep me drawn in. It’s almost like I preferred the louder tracks. Maybe the quieter tracks are too ‘indie’ for me.

On the other hand, The opening two tracks aren’t the end of the brillance of Broken Bells. “The Mall and Misery” is a gem of a track hiding at the end of the album. It features strings and an Asian influence in its sound. There’s a nice guitar riff and a memorable chorus. It’s become one of my favorite tracks on any album this year. Songs like “The Mall and Misery” are why I listen to indie rock and lesser known music.

“The Ghost Inside” is a fun 70’s-esque track with a double-clap and some pretty good instrumentation. It’s one of the few tracks on the album that might be worthy of the dance floor and it’s somewhat reminiscent of Gnarls Barkley’s sound.

Broken Bells is an interesting collaboration of two really talented artists creating something new and original. While some of the album gets a little too acoustic and mellow for my tastes, I’d imagine that if you’re a bigger fan of The Shins than I am, those tracks are likely right down your alley. Even if you’re not, “High Road”, “The Mall and Misery”, “Vaporize”, and “Mongrel Heart” are well worth the price of admission.

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