Music Spotlight: Broken Bells

By Alexis Tomrell

Collaboration has never been an issue with super producer Brian Burton, also known as Danger Mouse. His resume includes “The Grey Album,” which is a mix of Jay-Z’s The Black album and The Beatles’ The White Album, working with Cee-Lo Green of Gnarls Barkley, The Black Keys and countless others.

Now, Danger Mouse’s newest endeavor is a project called Broken Bells, a partnership with Portland indie band The Shins’ vocalist James Mercer.

The two met at a Danish music festival in 2004 and discovered they were both fans of each other’s work.

The result is exactly what we assumed: Danger Mouse creates an experience of sound with a wide range of influences from techno to classical music.

“The High Road” opens up the album with mellow keyboard notes mixed with simple acoustic guitar chords and up-beat drums. What really brings the song together is Mercer’s vocal harmonies.

For anyone who has listened to The Shins’ work before hearing Broken Bells, Danger Mouse’s music style fits Mercer’s similar style, which is rooted in indie-pop perfectly.

“A Ghost Inside” showcases Mercer singing at a high octave with a beat that is primarily drum and synthesizer. The chorus features a harmony of other vocalists that tie together verses without being too choppy. While other songs use guitar solos, Danger Mouse uses various electronics as the breakdown focus.

“Sailing to Nowhere” is a track which can be compared to Radiohead, with Mercer’s vocals sounding similar to Thom Yorke. It is primarily an instrumental track that constantly changes like the ocean waves of its namesake.

Although Broken Bells isn’t a groundbreaking act in today’s music industry like when Gnarls Barkley first started bringing the soul genre back into the mainstream, that doesn’t take away from what Mercer and Burton were able to achieve.

Broken Bells will please prior fans of Danger Mouse, as well as Shins fanatics. Their pop sound will definitely be a future mainstream radio favorite.

The duo will start a nationwide tour starting in the middle of May, stopping by Detroit’s St. Andrews Hall on June 1st, as well as playing other various small venues. 

They have already started working on their next record that has yet to be announced. 

 Their self-titled album is a great, entertaining record that highlights the talents of two big name musicians, and solidifies Danger Mouse’s place as one of the greatest producers of our generation, and James Mercer as one of music’s most underrated vocalists.

Check out Broken Bells at