Broken Bells — After the Disco (Columbia) – What started out as a side project between Shins lead vocalist/guitarist James Mercer and Brian Burton (aka uber-producer Danger Mouse) has evolved into a solid group as evidenced by the follow-up to the duo’s 2010 self-titled debut. Whereas, the prior collection of songs leaned heavily on warm yet loose bits of spacey ambiance dotted by lazy beats and hazy melodies, the arrangements this time around are a bit tighter. There’s still a degree of airiness to the proceedings be it the dream-pop of “Lazy Wonderland” and its refrains of “Dew on the melon rind/In the morning light/Lying stubborn on the ending of yet another lovely night” or “The Angel and the Fool” and its subtle use of ethereal harmonies and muted strings. Mercer and Burton are a bit more forceful on other parts of Disco whether it’s on the more urgent title track and its pulsing beat and slightly falsetto phrasing, mentions of psychological duress wrapped in New Wave synth washes and rhythms sprinkled throughout “Perfect World” or the precise encapsulation of a dissolving relation that is “Control” with its expert use of rumbling Cure-flavored basslines, fuzz guitar and faux horns. With time, Broken Bells has reemerged with a follow-up of rich textures that make for a richly-layered sophomore bow.
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