Has Broken Bells fallen victim to disco fever? By adding a hint of a new sound, Broken Bells only partially matures with “After the Disco.” Although fairly similar to their last album, “After the Disco” still manages to be a nice album, if only a little flat.
Broken Bells is James Mercer of the Shins and power-producer Brian Burton (who also produced this album), better known as Danger Mouse. While Burton’s musical endeavors are too varied to cite his specific sound’s influence on the album, “After the Disco” definitely has a chill Shins sound to it, courtesy of Mercer.
Released February 4, “After the Disco” is Mercer and Burton’s second album as Broken Bells, and is definitely a more matured, unique sound than their debut “Broken Bells” four years ago.
“Broken Bells” sounded like Shins B-sides and experimental songs, but grittier, more metallic, and eerier. “After the Disco” is Broken Bells finally refining their sound into something more unique and independent from the band members’ other projects.
This refined sound is just a more developed version of their previous work, but developed with a slightly more disco vibe about it. There is still a strong Shins influence, but it is a little less all-encompassing than it was on “Broken Bells.”
“After the Disco” sounds like Broken Bells added a dash Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” disco sound to themselves. “After the Disco” definitely isn’t disco, but it does have slight ’70s flavor throughout. Are they just trying to capitalize on the budding (or quickly fading) disco revival? Perhaps not, the disco sound is faint.
That being said, if I had heard only the chorus of “Holding On For Life,” I would have thought it was a more relaxed Bee Gees song. Mercer sounds a lot like Barry Gibb, but the rest of the song is original and decidedly more modern.
Songs like “The Changing Lights” and “Holding On For Life” perfectly represent the funk that has made its way into the album without overpowering the original Broken Bells sound. “The Changing Lights” doesn’t sound like anything new, but its chorus has more of an updated, upbeat sound.
The mostly melancholy lyrics of the album all kind of start to sound the same after a while, but most of the songs sound different enough that the songs’ lyrical similarities don’t really get in the way of enjoying the music.
While not all of the songs are necessarily inspiringly amazing, the music is high-quality and fun to listen to. “After the Disco” is a relaxing album that holds a listener’s interest, and is a step in a new direction for Broken Bells, though to see if they will stick with their disco sound will reveal if it is a passing trend or a major stylistic development.