There has been a fair ‘ole bit of hype surrounding this record, a collaboration between James Mercer (The Shins) and the enigmatic producer Brian Burton (Danger Mouse). An indie kid’s wet dream then. Well, we’re still waiting on that Sufjan Stevens/Karen O/Suicide Girls movie..so until that happens, this is as good as anything.
At first, I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure – That was until I heard opening track and first (free!) single The High Road. Brain-shattering hip-hop influenced drums crash in with explosive energy, only to reveal some of the most harmonic and beautiful vocal melodies, arguably some of Mercer’s finest vocal work.
I have found Burton’s work a bit hit and miss over the years (never really ‘got’ the whole Grey Album thing. Shakey concept and so-so execution) but this time he seems to have nailed it. There’s just enough ‘knob-twiddling’ to compliment Mercer’s guitar work so as to compliment it, without being overpowering.
While the standout (and opening) track by a long way is The High Road, the whole album is a solid piece of very listenable music by two obviously extremely talented musicians. Throughout the whole record, Mercer’s warm, melodic vocals intertwine with Burton’s minimal yet hard-hitting beats to create a soundscape that could very well be the soundtrack to the summer. While few of the tracks have the instantly memorable pop hooks of the first single, it is a record that I have found to get right under my skin, with each new listen revealing something new. One to listen though a good pair of headphones and give some real time to though – this isn’t background/washing up music at all.
Broken Bells is out today courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment. Tour dates are yet to be announced.