Monday, March 8, 2010
Artist: Broken Bells
Album: Broken Bells
Record Label: Columbia
Release Date: 3/9/2010
Collaborations within music have a particular ability to capture headlines and attention from both critics and fans alike. In particular, creativity emerging from the crossroads of distinctly different and talented acts possesses a certain allure. This fascination arises from the potential for previously unexplored ideas to be pursued, providing opportunities for artists to break outside of their typical constructs and musical shells. So when rumors emerged regarding a project between the Shins’ front James Mercer and producer extraordinaire Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse), many heads turned in response to the possibility of this all-star indie-rock project.
The long rumored partnership finally revealed themselves late last year as Broken Bells, and their eponymous record marks the pinnacle of their collaborative efforts. While both Mercer and Burton continue to draw from their respective styles, they refuse to rest on their personal laurels, discovering and reinventing new parts of their personal work. Broken Bells opens with the single “The High Road,” fusing the Shins’ indie-pop aesthetic with a Danger Mouse’s textured hip-hop beat. The super-duo’s blended combination remains seamless on this track, as their work results in a final product greater than the sum of their individual talents.
Brian Burton’s ambient presence endures as a focal point on this album, as he aptly draws from his sampled palette of musical colors, painting a relaxed atmosphere throughout Broken Bells. Mercer’s soothing croon remains consistently effective, providing a certain stability amid Burton’s collection of intricate touches at every twist and turn. Between the reverb-heavy synthesized organs of “Vaporize” to the haunting harmonics of “Sailing to Nowhere,” Burton manages to stands out, while simultaneously complimenting Mercer over the course of Broken Bells.
The legacy of Broken Bells emerges as a quintessential example as to the manner in which collaboration should take place. Mercer and Burton own the project equally with their individual influences being distinct. Yet, they use Broken Bells as an instrument creating something new and inventive, helping their work expand into unchartered territories. Broken Bells is an affair that clicks from the very beginning—an impressive feat given that this debut comes off as excellent as it is natural.
Check out this album streaming in its entirety at NPR's website.