Four years after the release of their self-titled debut, Broken Bells are back with After the Disco. The duo, comprising of two of the most inspiring and brilliant artists of our generation, take a break from their respective main projects to bring us this album. James Mercer, legendary frontman of The Shins, lends his chiseled vocals to the excellent production skills of Danger Mouse (Brian Burton), known for being one half of the critically acclaimed soul duo, Gnarls Barkley, along with CeeLo Green.
The album starts off strong with it’s first three songs, ‘Perfect World’, ‘After the Disco’ and ‘Holding on for Life’. A beautiful set of three songs create this chilled out musical atmosphere while maintaining a pace that you can definitely dance to in your room, even all by ones lonesome. ‘Holding on for Life’ was the single that was released alongside this album and features Mercer’s brilliant Bee-Gees-esque falsetto. ‘Lazy Wonderland’ is the hidden gem of this album, with the Angel City String Orchestra, and sounds like a beautiful mix between The Shins during ‘Wincing the Night Away‘ and ‘Sea Change‘ era Beck.
‘Medicine’ and ‘No Matter What You’re Told’ are both fuzz-pop songs that almost sound like they could have been two halves of the same song. After the Disco doesn’t exactly have filler songs so much as filler moments. Some parts almost feel unnecessary. ‘The Remains of Rock and Roll’ was definitely not up to scratch with the rest of the album, which felt like it should have finished after ‘The Angel and the Fool’. That song was particularly memorable due its beautiful whistle solo, which I find to be underused in modern music to a saddening degree.
This album is unfortunately littered with a few forgettable filler songs, but there are some real glimpses into a great future with this duo. This album isn’t devastating, far from it. However, when the musical calibre of Mercer and Burton are factored in, it feels too restrained. They haven’t reached their full potential together just yet, but I have no doubt that with more time they could really make an impact. This album would make a great entry into the previous works of James Mercer and Danger Mouse respectively. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either, at least give it a listen.
After the Disco was released in the UK on February the 3rd, 2014 via Columbia Records.