When it was announced in 2009 that James Mercer from The Shins and producer Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton were going to collaborate under the moniker Broken Bells, it seemed like another interesting experiment in a year glutton with odd collaborations (Monsters of Folk, anyone?).
The result was a departure for both musicians. Their self-titled debut created jangly sonic landscapes punctuated with Mercer's introspective lyrics. It was futuristic music for sad bastards everywhere, with Mercer's expressive falsetto providing the imaginary soundtrack for hypothetical hipster version of Solaris starring Zach Braff.
The 10-track album had a lot of traction and a small tour followed, but then everyone went on their way. The Shins released a new album and that seemed like the end of the road for the duo. A teaser for their latest album After The Disco was released late last year.
The forlorn lyrics remain the same, but their experimentation has been taken up a notch. The album is what plays as the mirrorball spins on a party on the moon, with the down to Earth song "Holding On to Life" could accompany John Travolta's subway ride at the end of Saturday Night Fever.
Mercer and Burton are obviously more comfortable working together, and their ability to play off each other is obvious. Those expecting to simply shoe gaze at the Marquee on April 10 are in for a surprise. The rhythm of the new songs are much more upbeat than your typical indie music release. Early tour reviews indicate a space-age rave awaits attendees.
The band's appearance in Tempe at the Marquee Theatre this week is their last before a high-profile gig at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, where they will begin a collaboration of a different kind.
According to a press release last month, $1 from every ticket sold from their West Coast tour will help fund the B612 Foundation's Sentinel Mission, which will help create a comprehensive map of the inner solar system and provide an early warning system for dangerous asteroid impacts.
Mercer and Burton are not only providing the soundtrack for tomorrow, but trying to protect it.
Broken Bells is scheduled to perform on Thursday, April 10, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
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