Release Date: Mar 29, 2011
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop
James Mercer and Danger Mouse are first-class astral geeks. And on last year's Broken Bells, the Shins frontman and the hip-hop surrealist came up with melancholic psychedelic folk hop - somewhere between Pet Sounds and De La Soul Is Dead. This EP suggests their one-off is a full-on "project." Mercer rolls out bright, mussy melodies and turns up his guitar a little, and D.M.
If Broken Bells, the pairing of producer/Gnarls Barkley alum Brian Burton (a.k.a. Danger Mouse) and Shins frontman James Mercer is not quite as magical as that of, say, peanut butter and jelly, it still makes for a subtly savory sonic morsel. Burton builds layered, twilit soundscapes for Mercer’s pensive musings; these songs are the stuff of cloudy days and sleepless nights, and that’s okay.
A little more than a year after Broken Bells—the inspired duo of The Shins' James Mercer and Danger Mouse—released an album together, the Meyrin Fields EP further showcases their glitchy-yet-melodic space pop. Only two of the four songs are technically new, but quality is what counts here. Crunchy and distant but still endearing, the duo breaks down technology to make it sound breezy.
At four songs in length, Broken Bells’ Meyrin Fields certainly couldn’t be accused of containing any filler. Small and perfectly formed, this EP from The Shins’ James Mercer and Danger Mouse provides a welcome interlude in the wait for a new album. Which presents this listener with a dilemma: because for all the magic dust sprinkled across these four tracks, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that it could be more.
When a producer as prolific as Danger Mouse and a songwriter as multifaceted as James Mercer get together, there are bound to be some bizarre studio concoctions. While their self-titled debut album as Broken Bells was promising, it occasionally felt like the duo was holding itself in check. Meyrin Fields, however, unleashes the more psychedelic side of the band's talents with songs that are less subdued and studied, and more fanciful and energetic.
Broken Bells members James Mercer (of the Shins) and Danger Mouse, aka Brian Burton, each made their names on twisting the sounds of the 1960s-- the former turning the Beach Boys and the Kinks into gleefully obscure indie pop and the latter remixing the Beatles' White Album into a hip-hop backing track. The music they make together, however, sounds instead like radio hits from some 1960s vision of the future: love songs from a world that will never exist. That sense of unrealizable possibilities reinforced the sense of loss on their debut, and made songs like "The High Road" and "The Ghost Inside" sound bruised and battered, but not bitter or jaded.
Forgive me for perhaps lending too much weight to intent, but I don’t know what Broken Bells have been trying to do here. It seemed like as early as 2008, James Mercer’s Shins day job was burned out or at least deeply dormant. It’s documented that Mercer was at an impasse with his fellow band members, aiming to tour less and do more in the studio than his longtime band mates were ready for.
Listening to Broken Bells—electro-pop collaboration between Shins leading man James Mercer and Beatles-bootlegger-turned-Gnarls-Barkley-superstar Danger Mouse—feels a bit like watching one of those weird high school flings between an A/V club super-dork and a cheerleader at the fore of a New Year’s resolution to start going for guys with a little more substance. For two weeks, everyone observes as she sweetly pretends to love the mix of Nirvana B-sides he’s given her, and he tries with little success to style his hair, but only the lovebirds themselves are capable of viewing the charade as anything other than a complete betrayal of the natural order. Mercer and Mouse create a similar dichotomy.