- Audio CD (22 Jun. 2010)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Columbia
- ASIN: B0038SUQN2
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 41,014 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Broken Bells (Amazon Exclusive Version)
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Top customer reviews
I was pleasantly surprised to find a gently engaging collection of melodic songs. The album is deceptively complex. At first listen, it sounds nice enough, but repeat listenings reveal subtleties in the both the music and vocals.
I might have dismissed this as accessible, unchallenging indie, but there is more to this album than meets the eye (ear?).
Not one to love, but I like it plenty.
May also be good car music. Does not engage in any kind of interesting or original level.
Any praise of Broken Bells is bound to lead to a comparison with The National and Arcade Fire, both of whom would seem to be many people's choice for album of the year (with High Violet and The Suburbs, respectively) - and deservedly so, both these albums are indeed very, very good - but as I say, to each their own: personally, I find High Violet a little tiresome and predictable; I much prefer The Suburbs, but even then I don't find it particularly inspiring on any level.
If you're a fan of The Shins, as has already been suggested here, you'll no doubt like this album...but believe me, it's so much more than just another Shins record. It's beautifully crafted - the writing, vocals, instrumentation, and production is excellent - but more than that, it brings a smile to my face every time I press 'play' on my stereo and for that reason alone it deserves my title of album of the year.
Broken Bells the album arrived accompanied by a huge amount of expectation. I think the album certainly lives up to the quality of both bandmember's previous works, but for the most part takes off in a completely different direction. Mercer's intimate vocals are mainly set against insistent synths, relaxed guitars and intricate percussion, Burton's excellent production work giving each song depth without overpowering Mercer's contributions.
Particular highlights include the soaring chorus of "The High Road" with warm backing vocals; the languid experimentation of "Your Head Is On Fire"; the simple beauty of "Citizen"; and "October" which evokes The Shins' best work in its easy depth of feeling summoned by effective piano and guitar instrumentation. My favourite song would have to be "The Ghost Inside". It is driven by a catchy electronic punch and handclaps, featuring dark and intriguing lyrics which really test Mercer's vocal range. It is very reminiscent of Burton's work on the second Gorillaz album Demon Days, which is high praise indeed.
If I had to make one criticism of this album, it is that at times the sound feels a little too calculated, resulting in technical perfection at the expense of emotional connection. Any one of the ten songs, taken out of context, stands well on its own but taken as a whole album, they suffer slightly from a lack of variety, the focus so tight and restrained that the album has a homogenuous sound. It's a shame given that the work is of such a high standard. At only ten songs it's also quite a short listen that could have benefitted from being beefed up with a couple of extra songs. It seems strange that strong b-sides such as "An Easy Life" couldn't have been included especially because it displays more ingenuity than some of the other songs on the album.
But on the whole this is an impressive debut, and I hope that Broken Bells second album will expand on their progress here to achieve a fuller and more varied album. Songs like "The Ghost Inside" and "The High Road" suggest great potential for a more diverse and fun album than the slightly dry, cerebal overall listen offered here. In some ways I hope Burton rediscovers what made Gnarls Barkley and Demon Days such huge successes (bold, striking melodies and sonic diversity) and combines it with the catchy pull of The Shins' music rather than trying to run too far from their previous work.
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