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Broken Bells

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There are straight-forward gems such as “The High Road” and “Trap Doors” as well as atmospheric beauties like the gurgling “Your Head Is On Fire,” the tense and wiry “Citizen,” and the ingeniously constructed “Sailing to Nowhere.” Broken Bells is an inspired collaboration that should please fans of the Shins and Danger Mouse alike.

Customer Reviews

Oh My God

At some point in history, a very hungry man went to the kitchen for a snack. He took the peanut butter out of the cabinet and proceded to spread the peanut butter on a fresh slice of bread. While closing the peanut butter jar, this man knocked over a jar of grape jelly that his wife had just bought from the supermarket. The grape jelly spilled all over the man's snack. The man was very hungry and decided to just put another piece of bread on top of it all and eat it anyway. The sensation that this man felt inside his mouth upon taking his first bite will be just like the sensation inside your ears upon listening to this album.

Genre-altering Duo, Danger and Mercer

“Melodic, but experimental, too,” says the mastermind duo, Broken Bells, consisting of Brian Burton (known as Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley), and The Shin’s frontrunner, James Mercer. As unnatural as the pairing may seem, so is the uniqueness of Broken Bells. Burton brings the beat and electricity, Mercer the textual melodies and vocals, and the combination is known as the great Broken Bells! Continue reading.

THE HIGH ROAD is spacial and ultra electronic in the beginning, but repetitive at the end. The rest is catchy and a little melancholy. Love Mercer’s vocals in the chorus. It does not really preface the rest of the album. Lots of clapping, though. 8.7

VAPORIZE prefaces a new feature: the organ. Beat is minimal for this one. Mercer favors the reverb in the bridge, and a horn comes in at the end. Try genre-labeling this one. Once again some clapping. 8.8

YOUR HEAD IS ON FIRE is layer upon layer of minimalist texture. Bubbly song. Weird, I know. This song sounds the most like The Shins. The strings add an emotional dimension, this is the nostalgic part of the album. Follows a ABCA structure. 9.9

THE GHOST INSIDE is all Danger Mouse. A powerful beat with a second alto vocalist. The reverb bridge is a new sound. Then the song hits a crescendo with Mercer coming back for his lead vocal role. 9.5

SAILING TO NOWHERE has so much effect! You are on a ghostly boat at sea, with a dark ocean frothing beneath. Then the organ kicks in with the strings, where you finally come to port with the dainty piano line. What a trip! 9.9

TRAP DOORS fools the listener over and over again with lovely synthesizer lines. Lyrics are a mystery, but powerful with the transfer between distant and normal vocals. More impeccable strings, ring a bell? I feel something new with each listen. 10

CITIZEN is the simplest, straight up rock. At least as straight up as Broken Bells will go. Same effectual line. I do not know if you can hit the listener with that line so many times. 8.3

OCTOBER is Broken Bells heaviest song. That does not mean it is their worst. Who knew an alto back vocal could make the words seem so emotion-laden? Wow the strain in Mercer’s voice. Love the synthesizer line at the end. 8.9

MONGREL HEART is another textual piece. Starts with a dainty piano line, then a vocal one, and then the meat of the song: pretty light on the beat, still the strain a little, however. Melancholy most definitely fits the bill of this song. 9.3

THE MALL AND MISERY has a lovely banjo facade at the beginning along with the string riffs. This fades away to become another textual piece. Easily the best song on the album. It has rocking guitar, lilting vocals, and cleverly-crafted beats. 10

The album cover is fascinating. It is like a spiky piece of bubble gum, but it has light and therefore life inside. It’s a bubble gum world out in space! Cool! This album was an answer to the mainstreaming of Indie. Burton, an already established pop producer (albeit hip-hop), is collaborating with a recently successful Indie Pop artist, Mercer (#2 in US and Canada in 2007). The result is a genre-altering album. Rumor has it they already have ten more songs made. Can’t wait! Broken Bells scores a composite of 93.3%, with all possible criticism.


Imagine if Gorillaz featured featured the Shins on every song for a whole CD. Exactly, your in heaven.


Formed: 2008 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Though Broken Bells featured two of the bigger names in indie and alternative music -- the Shins' singer/guitarist James Mercer and producer/multi-instrumentalist Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse -- the duo managed to keep their project secret for a relatively long time. The pair were inspired to collaborate when they met at 2004's Roskilde music festival in Denmark, where they discovered they were fans of each other's work. However, they didn't start writing and recording together as a band until...
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Broken Bells, Broken Bells
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