By Richard Thornburgh
James Mercer, lead singer of The Shins, and Brian Burton, formally known as Danger Mouse of the group Gnarls Barkley, have formed a new group called Broken Bells, releasing their self-titled debut album March 9th.
The first track “The High Road” was released December 22 as a single, preparing the industry for the new technical style of Broken Bells. There are noticeable similarities between each artist’s previous group. Broken Bells’ sound features the characteristic quick pace and high-pitched voice of The Shins, as well as Gnarls Barkley’s frequent usage of overdubbing, sampling and addition of multiple beats and sounds. As “The High Road” progresses, the collaborative effort blends more and more smoothly.
“Vaporize,” features an eerie organ and bass line that melds with Mercer’s voice to fit Burton’s sound. After the slower, three-part “Your Head is on Fire,” is “The Ghost Inside,” sounding like a higher-pitched Gnarls Barkley with scattered guitar and piano. “Sailing to Nowhere,” incorporates sounds of the ocean through synthesizers and slow guitar. The string quartet and piano solo includes of the noise of docking ships, flying seagulls and patrons boarding horn-blown ships to send the listener “Nowhere.”
The acoustic guitar-driven “Citizen” quietly moves into the more popular “October.” A build-up of strings glide into a transition of electric keyboard and guitar, “October’s” success is furthered by Mercer’s vocals. While the closing song to the album does not dazzle, the previous track “Mongrel Heart,” does wonders with the electric keyboard synthesizer and bass line that lead into a trumpet-driven ballad in the final minute.
While their original bands are at a standstill with new music, James Mercer and Danger Mouse have found a way to stay busy with the release of “Broken Bells.” With music that attracts several genres of hip-hop, alternative and indie rock, chances are high that the group will attract diverse audiences.