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Broken Bells

4.6 out of 5 stars 180 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

2010 debut album from this duo featuring James Mercer (The Shins) and Brian Burton (AKA Danger Mouse). The album features 10 melodically seductive and psychologically provocative songs co-written and performed by Mercer and Burton. The album features Mercer on vocals, guitars and bass while Burton plays organ, drums, piano, synths and bass. The pair play all the instruments on the album with the exception of a full string section arranged by Daniele Luppi.
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Video: The High Road (Video)
Video: The High Road (Video)
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 9, 2010)
  • Original Release Date: March 9, 2010
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony Legacy
  • Run Time: 37 minutes
  • ASIN: B0031AV72Q
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (180 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,523 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

By J. Loudon on March 9, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
When James Mercer, singer/guitarist for the Shins, and producer Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) announced in the fall of 2009 that they would be releasing an album together as Broken Bells, it instantly became one of the most anticipated alternative albums of 2010. Instead of becoming just another Danger Mouse collaboration saturated with samples, every instrument was played and recorded in the studio.

Mercer went through some evolution for this record as well. Although his work on the Shins' records often required high register vocals, his voice breaks into the falsetto range on Broken Bells as well as dropping into the lower depths of his capability.

Where many collaboration albums often fall into a competition for influence, Mercer and Burton embrace each other's strengths which results in an extremely well balanced blend of the two artists' styles. The first track, "The High Road," opens sounding very much like another Gorillaz track. This should come as no surprise since Danger Mouse produced their second record, but after twenty five seconds of waiting for Damon Albarn's trademark vocals, the music transitions into a track much more comparable to the Shins' previous releases.

On the following track, "Vaporize," Mercer is given the introduction before Burton's influence fades into the mix.

Easily the catchiest song on the album, "The Ghost Inside" is Danger Mouse's only true feature song. With a beat resembling that of "Kids With Guns" on the Gorillaz album Demon Days, and falsetto vocals reminiscent of Burton's other major project, Gnarls Barkley, "The Ghost Inside" is as close as Broken Bells gets to a club worthy hit.
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Danger Mouse is on a roll and this collaboration with James Mercer of The Shins is beautifully unexpected. I was expecting something similar to his work on Beck's Modern Guilt, Gnarl Barkley, Gorillaz, or Damon Albarn's Good, Bad & the Queen.

Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) plays his own instruments rather than sampling while bringing the same melodic intensity. Mercer brings his signature vocals. Together, the result is immediate and exactly what 2009 was lacking IMO.

Worth the price at any price.
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The primary vibe I hear and enjoy in this music is something that reminds me of a certain type of band from the 1980s -- in Broken Bells, I hear echoes of The Church and Flock of Seagulls and Psychedelic Furs and Naked Eyes and the Cars and the Thompson Twins and Level 42.

But those echoes I hear are more about melodic melancholy than anything having to do with the Reagan era or new wave, because the album sounds too timeless to spring from one particular decade. The instruments, particularly the keyboards, are many and varied, and the style of a song often shifts several times during the course of these suite-like tracks.

It's a really adhesive record -- My first reaction was, "This is OK." Then "This is better than I thought." Then I realized it was most of what I was listening to. And, like most great albums, it has songs that tend to grow on you just as you were beginning to get a little tired of the ones that had grown on you before.

I'd like to talk about the production (which is quite similar to Danger Mouse's work with Damon Albairn on the second Gorillaz), about James Mercer's vocals and his extremely unusual lyrics. But I think I would start on that task and write one of those 10-page long, slightly crazed reviews that few people ever read.

So I'll just say this: "Broken Bells" is down-tempo, groove-filled and great. I started out buying just a track here and a track there and, before I knew it, had the whole damn thing.
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Format: Audio CD
Broken Bells is producer du jour Dangermouse's latest musical venture comprising himself and vocalist James Mercer from Indie band The Shins. The pair say songwriting was shared 50/50 and the result is an album comprising 10 tracks, which are experimental and melodic, with sonic variety.

Everything stands out really, from opening "The high road" with guitars and soothing harmonies, the acoustic Beatles-meets-U2 "Vaporize", to the groovy falsetto-sung "The ghost inside" (which wouldn't sound out of place on Gorillaz new CD).

The psychedelic "Sailing to nowhere" is delicate with ghostly harmonies, "October" has a lovely piano refrain, while "The mall & misery" has a Middle Eastern feel.

My favourite track is "Mongrel heart" with a wavy groovy baseline, cascading harmonies, and a string/mariachi horn break, simply stupendous! Hopefully, we'll be hearing more from the pair.
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Probably the album of the year so far. Not one bad song on it. The beats are musically interesting and I really like Mercers vocals in the Shins and they are just as good here. Good lyrics too. Definitely buy this one if you want some great music.
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Amazing record. One singer, James Mercer, but so many different characters to his voice! You know him from the Shins, but here he's exploring so many different sounds and textures- the dude has RANGE. The structures of these songs are innovative, with some devastating bridges; they really take you on a journey more complex and rewarding than many predictable pop songs. That's the thing, I guess. They aren't predictable. Between Brian and James, they have wide-ranging musical interests and you also get many kinds of songs, and different flavors within songs. I got this album from the library and listened to it at least 50 times in 3 weeks. I wanted to support the music so I bought it here.
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