Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Indie Band of the Week: Broken Bells
Broken Bells is a collaboration between James Mercer (of The Shins) and Danger Mouse (of The Grey Album fame). I've enjoyed Mouse's work with Gnarls Barkley and his production turns on the underrated The Black Keys' Attack and Release and The Rapture's Pieces of the People We Love. The Shins are a different story entirely. James Mercer's meandering echo is pleasant enough, but helplessly reduces me to zZz's if it takes him more than 1 verse to dangle a hook. A fantastic lyricist and perfectly capable of singing up an octave and imparting a bit of emotion into tracks, it's no surprise that the most successful songs on Wincing the Night Away (their most recent release) were those that found the band keeping their experimental urges in check (Sleeping Lessons, Australia, Phantom Limb).
If anyone is capable of revitalizing a tired formula, it's a new producer like Danger Mouse. Sure enough, the lead single The High Road sounds absolutely nothing like any Shins track I've ever heard. Keyboard loops float off into space before Mercer comes in, his echo on full display, singing down on us like that Teletubby sun baby. Before you can even place that it's "that Shins dude", a chorus of 'AHH's' sweep you into the bridge and Mercer's confident falsetto. The chorus is effective because it doesn't leave Mercer hanging to carry the load himself, sacrificing some intimacy but offering some needed reinforcement and depth. As a result, the song has a refreshing anthemic energy to it.
Listen to The High Road below:
It is also available as a free single on the duos website brokenbells.com