Tuesday, December 21, 2010

#10 Album Of 2010: Broken Bells - Broken Bells

Broken Bells

Broken Bells
Sony Records.

Original SCQ Review

The first time I heard this much-hyped concoction of Danger Mouse and James Mercer of The Shins was through a leak in early February, watching smoke waft in the pale afternoon light of a friend’s open-balcony. ‘The High Road’ was all I really took from that listen, but how that shrugging impression morphed into one of SCQ’s top records of the year would be chronicled over the following month, as online streams of Broken Bells comforted me before I marched to work amid winter’s slumber.

Was I alone in expecting an entire James Mercer / Danger Mouse collaboration to sound upbeat and slightly urban like ‘The Ghost Inside’? I don’t think I was, judging from the many dissatisfied critic and fan reviews in which each writer fought to find a different tactic of saying that something’s missing.

That “something” is jubilation, happiness, a satisfied state-of-mind that Broken Bells, as a supergroup, were entitled to thrive on the shoulders of. And this self-titled debut has its moments of relief, on the bridge of ‘Citizen’ or on the George Martin-esque symphonic close of ‘Sailing To Nowhere’. A love of the Beatles may have brought Brian Burton and James Mercer into each other’s lives but a pervasive loneliness bonds them as the cosmically disenfranchised Broken Bells. No matter how grounded or romantically devoid these ten songs are, their arrangements provide elbow room to keep searching.

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