Tag Archives: Danger Mouse

Album Reviews: Broken Bells, Guided By Voices, Angel Olson

Broken Bells- After the Disco

Broken Bells- After the Disco
Grade: B
Release Date: 2/04/14

Broken Bells has been a success story so far, something which shouldn’t have surprised reviewers like myself because of the talent of James Mercer as a lyricist and Danger Mouse’s history of successful collaborations. Their self-titled debut back in 2010 was a refreshing medium for Mercer to be displayed within and one of the more enjoyable releases of that year, but After the Disco feels like it falls short of the achievements of it’s predecessor. There’s something to be said about the novelty of a sound, it’s what made tracks like “The High Road” and “The Mall and Misery” become so easily enjoyable and immediate, but the duo doesn’t seem to have enough variation in their repertoire to continue releasing albums which are unique from each other, and that’s an issue. Everything on After the Disco sounds a bit too familiar for my liking, and because of that the interest diverts away from the actual product and instead focuses upon how Mercer and Danger Mouse influence each other from track to track from an experimental perspective.

All of this being said, a lot of the positive qualities of the band have survived to this second album and it’s no surprise that it has already found commercial success. The pop qualities are still very present and Mercer is still a good frontman for the project, but the lasting impression from this one is that the group might have benefitted from taking an approach similar to what The Postal Service did when they released Give Up and then returned to other projects.

Top Tracks: “After the Disco”, “Leave It Alone”

Motivational Jumpsuit

Guided By Voices- Motivational Jumpsuit
Grade: B+
Release Date: 02/18/2014

Guided By Voices was in the news for some not so great reasons recently, as their ‘classic’ lineup ran into some tension once their drummer Kevin Fennel attempted to sell his drum-set from the Bee Thousand years in an auction to the chagrin of Robert Pollard. It caused a pretty ugly feud between the two which led to Fennel’s publicized dismissal from the band, but the entire altercation has once again proven that the music of Guided By Voices will stop for no man. Motivational Jumpsuit is the first of two albums which are scheduled for release in 2014 by the band, and it captures Guided By Voices’ energetic, interesting, and diverse musical style well. The single is the first track in the album titled “Littlest League Possible” and it leaves an impression for it’s immediacy before seamlessly transitioning into “Until Next Time” which offhand references Mario Andretti in the opening lines. Pollard knows what he’s doing when he creates an album by this point in his career, and Motivational Jumpsuit strikes me as an album which was created with more attention to the details then it’s predecessors in this new revival-esque era for the band, a good effort by them.

Top Tracks: “Until Next Time”, “Some Things Are Big and Some Are Small”

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Angel Olson- Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Grade: B
Release Date: 02/18/14

A more difficult listen than the other albums, Burn Your Fire For No Witness is a soft, intimate album about the longing for social independence after the break up. She does this in a similar style to what Sharon Van Etten did on Tramp in 2012 where social anxiety was discussed by stripping down the music and making the vocals sound narrative in nature. The honesty in the lyrics is the best quality of a well-produced album, creating an interesting listen which asks the listener to remain patient with the slower portions outside of tracks like “Forgiven/Forgotten” and “Hi-Five”. An area for improvement for future releases would be to find a way to reach a song’s peak more easily and consistently, something which can be achieved through improved lyricism or well-planned song form. Qualities like that are rarely present at the beginning of an artist’s career though, and we may see that progression become a natural occurrence for Angel Olson, for now she is a good artist with the potential to be very good.

Top Tracks: “Enemy”, “Stars”

The Full Picture: The Black Keys

Probably the most necessary of the Full Picture articles that I’ve written so far, what’s becoming a forgotten history for The Black Keys is that they were a very significant act earlier in their career as part of the blues-rock music scene. The band’s always been a duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, and this article is going to try and look at their rise to national prominence and point out just how their sound evolved to allow that to happen. This whole process starts back in 2002 when they released their debut album named The Big Come Up

The Black Keys- The Big Come Up (2002)
The Black Keys- The Big Come Up (2002)

The debut might surprise you if you’ve never heard it before in how raw the sound is, but it gives you a good idea about the roots of the band. The style is straight-forward for the listener, which is more the result of a two-person band than anything else, and it has a strong blues-rock feel to it for sure. That’s to say that while the guitar doesn’t have an overly-complicated role in the song it’s still got a prominent role on every track, and the songs themselves don’t get overly focused on choruses. Tracks progress naturally to tell a story, and that’s something which defines the early Black Keys tracks very well. There’s more attention placed on the instruments than the later work which is a nice change up for listening to them, but they also improved a lot after this album so other earlier works end up defining the band better. They’re cover of “She Said, She Said” is fantastic though.

Track Picks: “She Said, She Said“, “I’ll Be Your Man“, “Brooklyn Bound

The Black Keys- Thickfreakness (2003)
The Black Keys- Thickfreakness (2003)

A terrific album from the group which meant a lot for them getting attention as a premiere Blues-rock group and showed that the sound on The Big Come Up wasn’t a band which struck gold once. Auerbach’s vocals right from the start of the title track are nearly indiscernible in a classic blues-rock sense, and the band’s guitar dominated style seemed to benefit a lot from the band’s label switch to Fat Possum Records. The Black Keys were a young band that was playing energetic-guitar music and had a cool-vibe attached to them which was hard to argue against, and began to grow a good sized fan base because of this. Once again my favorite track on this album’s a cover as the group did a take on the classic Sonics song (and originally Richard Berry) “Have Love, Will Travel” and knocked it out of the park in the process.

Track Picks: “Have Love, Will Travel“, “Set You Free“, “Hurt Like Mine

The Black Keys- Rubber Factory (2004)
The Black Keys- Rubber Factory (2004)

Rubber Factory gets it’s title because it marks a change in the recording environment, as the band shifted out of Patrick Carney’s basement and into an old abandoned rubber factory for the sessions. When you read that you’d expect a larger change in sound then what actually translates to the album though, as the different acoustics and stylistic approach don’t seem to make to much of an indent on the actual recorded sound surprisingly. A good album which marks the first time the group ever charted, but probably best to re-visit for singles more than the whole product. Once again I’m a big fan of a cover song on this album in “Act Nice and Gentle” which was originally done by The Kinks, a huge stylistic difference but one that again ends up working beautifully well for the group, something that speaks volumes about their taste in music in my opinion. “The Lengths” deserves mention here too because it isn’t often mentioned as one of the group’s premiere songs, but I love their slower and sadder material and that track is one of the best examples I can give of why. The song is a really sentimental and emotional listen which is what the blues is supposed to be all about, and it’s a treat to listen to.

Top Tracks: “Act Nice and Gentle“, “The Lengths“, “All Hands Against His Own
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