The debut from Broken Bells -- the high-profile duo of James Mercer from indie-rock darlings The Shins, and in-demand producer Danger Mouse, currently nominated for an Oscar for his work with U2 -- was an interesting combination of their disparate musical styles.
On their follow-up, "After the Disco" (Columbia), however, Broken Bells has built an identity all its own that combines Mercer's knack for melody and Danger Mouse's love of strong beats and clever production.
The single "Holding on for Life" seems to capture this new vibe best, with the jangling guitars and Mercer's falsetto that is reminiscent of Barry Gibb balancing against layers of synthesizer riffs and, of course, a deep groove.
While most of the album is designed to be the chillout that people put on to relax after a night of dancing, with pretty, acoustic-driven numbers like the haunting "Leave It Alone" and the charming, guitar-driven "Control," they still include some potent floor-fillers. The "After the Disco" title track is a thrilling slice of electro-pop paired with a bass groove dripping with Roxy Music cool and stacks of sampled vocals that add to the fun. "Medicine" works equally well, as it tries to offer enough icy, electronic beats and "Let's Dance"- era David Bowie references to distract from the lyrics outlining the world's issues.
Danger Mouse talks about how Broken Bells has become his priority, how his production work and his other projects like Gnarls Barkley have become secondary. That attention shows on "After the Disco," and it's sure to make Broken Bells a major success.
"After the Disco"
BOTTOM LINE Finding their groove as a duo.