The brainchild of Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton (of Gnarls Barkley fame) and James Mercer, Broken Bells is a project overflowing with just the right production and just the right songs. Either of these on their own would make for an outstanding album, but together they make for one of the musical discoveries I’m most excited about this year. It’s an unlikely marriage of acoustic guitars, spacey modern electronic production, and some outstanding old-school songwriting chops.

There’s really not a dud on the entire album, which is quite a slam dunk for a new act (albeit a new act formed by two seasoned veterans of other projects). Even the songs that don’t quite tickle my fancy have moments within them that almost make it seem like the music’s suddely gone from small-screen to widescreen. There’s even a song or two where the song stops in the middle of the track and abruptly switches to a new musical idea altogether, which I’d count points off for if not for the fact that both halves of the song are engaging and catchy.

The retro-80s-funk-styled single “The Ghost Inside” got some decent exposure (thanks in no small part to a sci-fi-themed video featuring Mad Men’s resident redhead Catherine Hendricks), but that song is just the tip of the iceberg, as well as a perfect taster for the rest of the album. The album itself kicks off with another single, “The High Road”, which relies on a leaner production style than songs such as “Your Head Is On Fire”, “Sailing To Nowhere” and “Trap Door”. The 4 out of 4arrangements are immaculate and occasionally grandiose, but not in a bad way – and it doesn’t hurt that some of the songs have what I call “ELO moments.”

Hopefully Broken Bells isn’t just a one-off; it’d be very interesting to hear this sound evolve further. Great songs, well produced: that’s the kind of music I love. This is the best album I’ve heard so far in 2010.

Order this CD

  1. The High Road (3:52)
  2. Vaporize (3:29)
  3. Your Head Is On Fire (3:04)
  4. The Ghost Inside (3:18)
  5. Sailing To Nowhere (3:46)
  6. Trap Doors (3:19)
  7. Citizen (4:29)
  8. October (3:39)
  9. Mongrel Heart (4:23)
  10. The Mall And Misery (4:07)

Released by: Columbia
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 37:26