Four-song EPs usually serve as stopgaps between full-length albums, and they usually fall into three categories: collections of subpar material deemed unworthy of inclusion on the previous release, tantalizing tastes of things to come or the culmination of musical experimentation. The four tracks on Broken Bells‘ “Meyrin Fields” EP are stranger creatures than anything that appeared on James Mercer and Danger Mouse’s 2010 debut — an indication that the duo is prepared to make music that genuinely deserves to exist outside the shadow of either Danger Mouse’s Gnarls Barkley or Mercer’s other band, The Shins.
Broken Bells gets down to business with the title track, a bracing polyrhythmic song in which Mercer alternates between the two extremes of his substantial vocal range as Danger Mouse churns out bursts of clatter and atmosphere. Even better is “Windows,” bolstered by R&B rhythms, hard-funk guitar and Mercer’s dizzying falsetto. “An Easy Life” dips into fuzztone tropicalia — music for vacationing robots — and the set closes with the harder-edged shimmer of “Heartless Empire,” the one track in which Mercer seems to be pining for his erstwhile Shins gig.
At this point, Broken Bells and its status as an ongoing concern merits serious consideration. With Cee Lo Green doing just fine with his solo career and the shake-ups in the Shins lineup, Danger Mouse and Mercer might make this their day jobs rather than their moonlighting gig. “Meyrin Fields” indicates that both parties seem interested in expanding Broken Bells‘ smooth electro-pop into new sonic territory and keeping our heads ringing. –NOK
OTHER NEW VINYL RELEASES:
Radiohead, King Of Limbs
Mike Watt, Hyphenated-Man
Peter, Bjorn and John, Gimme Some
Amon Amarth, Surtur Rising
Lupe Fiasco, Lasers
Mountain Goats, All Eternals Deck
Pete Yorn, Musicforthemorningafter