Broken Bells, Morning Benders | The Vic | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Broken Bells, Morning Benders All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard

When: Mon., May 31, 7:30 p.m. 2010

When Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) first made waves in 2004, mashing up Jay-Z and the Beatles on The Grey Album, I never would've guessed he'd become one of the most distinctive auteurs in pop. He's used his skills at hip-hop production in all kinds of non-hip-hop ways, working with the likes of Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz, Beck, and the late Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse (their collaborative project, Dark Night of the Soul, will finally get a proper release this summer). He's got a predilection for 60s-style pop-rock, which is a big part of what makes BROKEN BELLS, his group with Shins singer-guitarist James Mercer, work so well. Burton can repurpose programmed beats and cut-and-pasted backdrops to serve the kind of strummy guitars and comfort-food melodies that made the Shins indie-rock royalty, and this helps push Mercer in some pleasantly novel directions. On Broken Bells' self-titled debut, which came out in March on Columbia, he sometimes sings in a quasi-soul falsetto, higher than anything I've ever heard from him ("The Ghost Inside"), or uses his guitar to heighten the Morricone-esque drama of Burton's production ("Mongrel Heart"). The second half of the album flags a bit, but reports from the road suggest that the live band improves the depth and vitality of all the songs. —Peter Margasak

Big Echo (Rough Trade) is an apt title for the MORNING BENDERS' second full-length, as it seems to have been recorded under the premises that anything can be improved with a generous helping of reverb and that too many overdubs are better than too few. (Coproducer Chris Taylor may have brought these concepts over from his main gig in Grizzly Bear.) But as heavy as they lay on the atmosphere, these four Berkeley lads don't show an unhealthy dependence on it. Their melodies—giddy towers of references to half a century of pop music—are strong enough to stand on their own, and they serve them up with a level of conviction not always associated with artsy indie rock. —Miles Raymer

Price: Sold out

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