released Mar 9th, 2010

from the album - The High Road

from all music

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 others’ work. However, they didn’t start writing and recording together as a band until March 2008, when Mercer holed up in Burton's home studio in Los Angeles. The duo took a different approach to their work together than they had with their other projects: Burton avoided the sample-heavy style he used on The Grey Album and Beck’s Modern Guilt and played only live instruments, while Mercer broadened his vocal style to include falsettos and deeper registers. Mercer and Burton announced they were Broken Bells in fall 2009, and late that year they released their debut single, "The High Road." Their self-titled debut album arrived in spring 2010.

album review from la times

If Zach Braff ever makes "Garden State 2," "Vaporize," the second track from this accomplished collaboration between the Shins' James Mercer and Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse, will be the soundtrack to Natalie Portman widening her doe eyes at our next hapless hero. With dusty strumming and soulful organ, Mercer's ennui about wasted modern life makes soul mates, at least temporarily, out of anyone listening.

Cinematic, unexpectedly romantic and carefully curated, "Broken Bells" has the same appeal as Postal Service's 2003 "Give Up" record, another celebrated accord between indie pop and electronica powers, though it skews more toward sparkling but dense folk rock than meticulously minimalist electronica.

A short album of 10 tracks pared from 20 recorded songs, "Broken Bells" is a potent distillation of the strengths of its main players. Mercer's knack for twisting and turning melodies is impeccably served by Burton, who tempers and fulfills those melodies with laid-back but elaborate scores of synth, piano, organ and sometimes a full string section, the only instruments not played by Burton or Mercer.

Though a par excellence enmeshment, "Broken Bells" doesn't yield any surprises and might be controlled to a fault. On the last track, the urgent but ruminating "The Mall and Misery," the two loosen enough to work themselves into a groove that sounds genuinely spontaneous, instead of like a brilliant but distant approximation. It gives the work a thrilling edge -- one that the pair can soar off of for next time.

Track Listing

1."The High Road" – 3:54
2."Vaporize" – 3:32
3."Your Head Is on Fire" – 3:06
4."The Ghost Inside" – 3:19
5."Sailing to Nowhere" – 3:46
6."Trap Doors" – 3:19
7."Citizen" – 4:29
8."October" – 3:37
9."Mongrel Heart" – 4:26
10."The Mall and Misery" – 4:06