20 March, 2010@6:59 pm
The absence of Danger Mouse on this year’s Gorillaz LP was duly noted, with the end result sounding something closer to Damon Albarn’s last entry, The Good The Bad and The Queen. Still a quality release, it somehow lacked the diversity of the previous two records. Where was Danger this time around? Instead, working with The Shins’ lead vocalist and guitarist, James Mercer on a collaborative project called Broken Bells, coincidentally (or not) released the same day as Gorillaz Plastic Beach LP.
The sound of Broken Bells is less folky than that of The Shins, and instead takes more of a melodic, downtempo sound, coming off like a more organic Zero 7. The opening track and lead single “The High Road” is a sort of mooged out mellow progressive rock track, as Mercer lends an almost country twang not unlike that of Chris Isaak to this hypnotic head nodder. The album takes many turns, some of it’s best moments being it’s softest. “Your Head Is On Fire”, for instance is a breezy, mostly instrumental track that one might hear in the air in Twin Peaks, while “Trap Doors” is a mesmerizing exercise in repetition that soothes the soul. The crown jewel among this handful of tracks is “Citizen”, a heavily chilled, atmospheric track that plays in the open wilderness.
On the flipside of things, “The Ghost Inside” sounds eerily like something Danger might have been grooming for a future Gorillaz record, complete with Mercer doing his best Albarn impression. The brooding “Mongrel Heart” plays like a lonely ride down Lost Highway, while the post-new wave “The Mall and Misery” closes the LP, rounding out the album with a diverse palette of sounds.
The always illustrious Danger Mouse has come a long way since his humble beginnings as a creative mixtape deejay, adding yet another solid LP to a catalog of collaborators that includes MF Doom, Cee-Lo Green, Beck, David Lynch, Sparklehorse, and others. While he may be moving further and further away from his roots in hip-hop music, there’s no doubt the quality of his sound can be seen in whatever he does.
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