February 7, 2010

Indie Week: Advance Review: Broken Bells

To close out Indie Week, I have for you an advance review of the debut album from Broken Bells! I'm sure you can't contain yourself. What's that? You can't get excited because you don't know who they are? Well allow me to introduce you:
Broken Bells is an American indie rock band featuring artist–producer Danger Mouse (billed by his real name, Brian Burton) and James Mercer the lead vocalist and guitarist for the indie rock band The Shins. The project was first announced on Tuesday, September 29, 2009. The pair decided to work together after meeting at a Danish music festival in 2004 and finding they were fans of each others work. Mercer and Burton began recording together in secret at Burton's Los Angeles based studio in March 2008 and describe their material as "melodic, but experimental, too".
Now are you excited?

1. "The High Road"- This track starts out with an interesting synth line that leads into Mercer. The synth disappears and the song really gets good as things turn acoustical. It coms back for the chorus along with a children's choir? The end changes yet again, adding in piano. It's lovely. Great first track and great first single.

2. "Vaporize"- This one starts off with acoustic guitar. It reminds me a lot of The Shins. Then the bass comes in with an organ. Oh and there's a trumpet at the end. Interesting blends of sounds these guys do. This is another strong track. It's more Shins-y then the last one, but I happen to really like those guys.

3. "Your Head Is On Fire"- This is kind of a weird one. It's really light. It reminds me of a tropical island for some reason. I don't know how to describe it properly, but it certainly is interesting. I suppose I could say it's a bit Gorillaz, but I don't think that's quite right. The tempo changes a few times and it kind of weirds me out that the whole song stops momentarily beforehand.

4. "The Ghost Inside"- Now this one really does sound like Gorillaz. The synth is prevalent in this one and the other instruments are simply complements to it. Mercer also goes into falsetto in this one and there's quite a weird harmony in there too. This song is a bit eerie for some reason.

5. "Sailing To Nowhere"- But not as eerie as this one. It's like an extension and evolution as the last track. Very heavy synth in this one, yet it retains an ambience about it with the use of real instruments. It gets better toward the end but I wish it started out that way! Nice string ending.

6. "Trap Doors"-  This one has one of the most boring synth grooves I've ever heard. Something about this song just seems really cheap like they gave up. It's frustrating because it has the potential to be a much better track than it is.

7. "Citizen"- This one starts without the synth. That's a good start. Yes, this is much improved over the last track. The synth effects are very subtle this time around and it sounds much better. The main tune in the background sounds so familiar...

8. "October"- I love the way this one starts out with strings and twangy guitar. It has an almost Asian vibe to it. But then it turns into synth. Not particular exciting synth either. But it's tolerable because the rest of the music saves it. At least, I think it's a synth beat. Otherwise, it's very bland and simplistic drumming.

9. "Mongrel Heart"- More synth, but interesting vocal harmony. Halfway through, things get very interesting. It suddenly sounds the score for an epic western. Unfortunately, that doesn't last long enough. Whenever the vocals kick in, the synth kicks in. It's droning and boring. worth listening to for the awesome middle.

10. "The Mall And Misery"- Now this track sounds like Muse! What the hell is going on here? It's kind of creepy actually. Very eerie "harmony." When you hear it, you'll know what I mean. The best tracks, unfortunately, are the shortest. Haunting.

Broken Bell's first effort is a valiant one. The album starts and ends strong, but looses focus along the way. There's a few tracks you should definitely check out, but I'm not sure the entire CD is worth it. It's too bad, also, because the idea had great potential. James Mercer's voice is great as always, but the music he sings to too often relies on bland synth. I wish bands would cut that crap out. It's never a good idea. Synth runis everything. Unless of course, you're Gorillaz. They're the only ones who do it well and it looks like the only ones who ever will.

Broken Bells will be available March 9th.

1 comment:

    Who You Gonna Call
    Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013
    Fax 44-(0)208 323 8080

    Hey Fuzunga / I04,

    On behalf of Columbia Records, Monotone and Broken Bells, many thanks for plugging "Broken Bells" / the artists' eponymous album on your blog (street date 9th March and 'Host Listed' by Billboard for 2010) ... .. and for your constructive criticism ... .. thanks, also, on behalf of the label, management and artists for not posting any pirate links to unreleased (studio) material and, if you / your readers want good quality, non-pirated, preview tracks, then full length versions of "The High Road" and "Vaporize" are available for fans and bloggers to link to / post / host etc at www.brokenbells.com ... ..
    for further details of the new album, special pre-orders, on-line promotions, videos and 2010 shows, check-out the official site, as well as the artists' MySpace at www.myspace.com/brokenbells and YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/brokenbells ... .. and keep an eye on these official sources for details of further news, preview material and on-line promotions and check-out the official video for "The High Road" - out now.

    Thanks again for your plug.