Tag Archives: Danger Mouse

Broken Bells – After the Disco Concert Review for Throwback Thursday

We’ve come to the end of the Listening to Music Without Understanding It series, I hope you’ve enjoyed the throwback! 


Last week I tried to talk through some of why I like the Broken Bells. They’re my favorite band; I hope some enthusiasm showed through! But I wanted to give a further look, to give a review of the concert I went to, to let you know where you can find the Broken Bells.

Real photo - just not a real good photo!

Real photo – just not a real good photo!

This is me finishing up my first series of music posts, which have been vaguely connecting through veins of me sharing some of my favorite bands, and talking about how I interact with and find music. Two sides of the same coin, since one of the best ways to find music is through recommendations, and, once recommended, through sampling the music yourself. Hopefully you’ve found someone new or something you like through my writing, because I know your comments and recommendations have helped me find some new music.

So let me know in the comments below what you think of my music series, or the Broken Bells, or who your favorite band is, or really, whatever you like! But for now: Broken Bells!

It’s a Perfect World

As the band came out, it was the vocals that play at the beginning of their recent music video, for Holding on for Life. And on the screen at the back of the stage, projected from a circular mirror array in the middle of the stage, was a reflection of the audience. Spotlights flowed around the audience, which started to bounce and beat and get excited and flow with the start of the music.

The show opened with the first song from their new album, the album they’re touring for, After the Disco. The song is called Perfect World, and it set a stage. The song opens with about a minute of just instrumental, of just them playing. It was a great warm up, a great way to get us in and excited and get things started.

On the screen, they panned away from the audience. Up, into the sky. To the Earth – with a great night sky shot, with all the cities lit up, their own little stars. It pans out further – off and away. Planets. Pulling away further. And then, suddenly, warping away, all with the music.

They took us out, away from home, somewhere else. They took us to a place of sound, of music, away from home and worries, for a while.

For their second song, they played my favorite: The Ghost Inside. I’ve referenced before the power and influence this song holds over me. It was pretty powerful still, it hit me pretty hard. I don’t think I was the only one – there were people dancing in the aisles ahead of us. But honestly? The best part was the end. James Mercer got us all clapping, got us in time. And they flowed, through this time, seamlessly from The Ghost Inside to After the Disco.

After your Faith has let you down,

I know you’ll want to run around,

And follow the crowd into the night,

But after the Disco…

All of the shine

Just faded away

-Broken Bells, After the Disco

It was magical. It was really the beginning of me rethinking their music, of me seeing it in this new light – of them blending and merging their two albums. They did this also on the screens with highlighting a character, mostly a silhouette, of the girl from the Holding on for Life video. I’m not sure if she’s meant to be the same character as Christina Hendricks was in The Ghost Inside – I would understand, I imagine she’s harder to get in a music video these days. Nonetheless, she became this recurring character throughout our journey for the evening.

Their first pause was after After the Disco. Not much, but enough to name the song before they played it: Mongrel Heart. A song I was pleased to see made the cut to the concert: it’s part of the strong finish to their first album, but not necessarily a song that stands entirely on its own. I mean, part of what’s great is how it fades into The Mall and the Misery

So, they transitioned it into The Mall and the Misery.

They did a lot with light during the show. Projections like stars on the theater ceiling, projected rays of light while we were warping away into space. Darkness between songs. It was after The Mall and the Misery that they first did one of their big shifts during the silence: suddenly, they were in a new position.

The artists, writ large.

The artists, writ large.

With Danger Mouse in a seat, playing the guitar, and Mercer next to him singing (and later, whistling), they played The Angel and the Fool. A beautiful song, and fun in the presentation as well. I saw it, and felt I just had to get out my phone (limping along on its last few percent of power) and snap a photo. I love how it turned out.

I won’t drag on and talk about every song they played – they eventually got in 18 (I think) of their 25 songs from their albums. Pretty good representation! Continue reading

My Favorite Band – The Broken Bells for Throwback Thursday

Next up in the Listening to Music Without Understanding It series was a post I’ve already thrown back, on Guardians of the Galaxy. So let’s jump ahead to the last couple of posts, when I closed out with the Broken Bells. 


I’ve been holding off on writing much about my favorite band. I had a reason. I was seeing them in concert. I figured this would give me some insight, something new and interesting and different to talk about. And I wasn’t wrong.

If you were to ask me who my favorite band is, I might have to think a bit. There are bands I’ve loved for a long time. Bands that have a large amount of good content, that keep being good. But really, if I were  forced to answer, I would have to go with the Broken Bells. And maybe, just maybe, some of the hesitation also has to do with the fact that, when I name them, people tend not to know who the heck I’m talking about.

The Broken Bells are the duo of two music creators known for their other work. One is James Mercer, lead singer of The Shins. The other is Brian Burton, better known by his stage name Danger Mouse, better yet known for producing music, such as the Gorillaz’s Demon Days, several albums by The Black Keys, and for being half of the duo Gnarls Barkley. It’s really when I get to mentioning Gnarls Barkley – and more specifically Crazy – that I finally get a dawning of recognition from people as to who the heck I’m talking about with either of these artists.

But music, as with all art, is about more than popularity, and so it is with the Broken Bells and I. And given that you probably don’t much know who they are either, dear readers, I think I am going to take some time with them, so, a couple of posts. I think this will conclude my first series of music posts, as well, as I shared some of the music I love, some of the music that’s big right now, and some ways to think about finding music. I think here first I’m going to dive into some of the question of why I like them: which goes to their skill at making music, the themes and lyrics. The second post, then, will be a bit of a review of their music: both of the concert – which has informed some of my further understanding of the band – and their albums.

Off we go then!

Adult Music?

I have been trying to figure out how to best describe the music of the Broken Bells, the lyrics and the themes. I think the best I can think of is it is adult music. Like, music by adults. For adults. So much of music today is for the young, for partying, for public. I imagine this isn’t just true today! Much of the rest of music, then, has to do with love – love found, love lost (and not always necessarily much in-between) – perhaps going back to the poetic roots.

But really, most of life takes place not in these highlight moments – not just in the crazy weekend out with friends, not just in the excitement of a love found, or the heartbreak of a love lost. No, most of life takes place with work, with dreams, in love, or in being lost. Life is a daily thing, that can often drag us down. Or, as the Broken Bells say much better than I can,

“You gotta lead your life,

But you’re not sure you know the way!”

-Broken Bells, The Changing Lights

Enter the Broken Bells. There’s a lot in their music about dealing with disappointment, I would say. That life maybe hasn’t worked out like you thought, that your dreams haven’t all come true, or when they did, they weren’t what you expected.

They don’t leave you there, though. It’s uplifting. Take a chance, still dream the dreams, and dream big – reach for the stars. These themes, these words keep coming up in their music, in a way I noticed even more at the concert: dreams, lights and stars. And the ghosts. Which are not only maybe the external ghosts of the world gone by, but the ghost inside, the thing that keeps us going ourselves.

I think the song that displays this best is one that I’ve only recently really fallen in love with: Vaporize.

Oh, and they’re definitely Musicians

I loved their music too, and if you know some of the other bands I’ve talked about here in my series, maybe you see it. They’re another Alternative Rock band, whatever that really ends up meaning, and they fit into that genre pretty well. But while I liked the music before, I don’t think I really respected it until seeing them live.

As the stage was getting set up, it had this great, futuristic look. These clean, white keyboard stands, and a set of drums. Three keyboard stands. So they had a spot for all four band members. But it wasn’t until they got going that everything came into focus.

Like all the guitars. You had the bassist (or maybe guitarist?) in the back, who also had his keyboard. Oh, and his mic for backup vocals. So he had three instruments. Then there was Mercer himself, with two guitars – electric and acoustic – as well as his keyboard and, of course, his mic. Then you had Danger Mouse, with his main keyboard, as well as an electric guitar for some songs and, for use with the song Medicine, a small xylophone. Oh, and a mic. And then the drummer, with the eponymous drums, as well as a mic.

So it seems like the drummer had the least going on… right up until he and Danger Mouse traded places. This happened a few times during the concert, with Danger Mouse going back to play drums, and the drummer coming up and playing the electric guitar and even the keyboard. And really, I had not thought about how important the drums were to these songs until watching them in action.

They all did three or more things throughout the concert, and it was a sight to see. Other bands might pull this off by being larger, but for the Broken Bells, they do it by being Musicians, with a capital M. They make music, and they do it by knowing how to play instruments, knowing how to sing, knowing how to work together.

It was a sight to behold. Each song another wonder of skill. I’ll likely mention it again next week, but it belongs here too: there’s even a point where Mercer was whistling, which doesn’t seem like a challenge until you think of whistling through a microphone – without causing feedback or driving every dog for 20 miles crazy.

TL;DR: Why Broken Bells?

It’s odd to think of a conclusion here, when I’m planning on talking about the band more, but so it goes. Next week I think I’m going to be highlighting a couple of specific songs, and linking to their music videos. But that leaves me with something else I can include here.

They did a live show on David Letterman, and 12 of the songs (I would imagine that was the whole set for the show?) are all online, on their official channel, in a playlist no less.

It’s not quite the experience we had. For one thing, it’s a lot quieter there than it was for us – in the theater we saw them in, the sound filled the hall, and some of the songs, like Meyrin Fields, were explosive. Also, in the videos, they do closeup stuff and all and you can’t choose where to watch yourself: the musicians in their varying roles, or the awesome visual show they put on to go with it. Nonetheless, this is a good way to see some of what I am talking about, to see this band in action.

And really, if you want one great example, check out the live show of Vaporize, lyrics above, which has Mercer playing the acoustic guitar, Danger Mouse on the drums, the drummer rocking out on the guitar, the bassist playing the keyboard… and it’s just wonderful.

I thought long and hard ’bout what I should say… When I was through it just came out this way! – The Black Keys for Throwback Thursday

Another week, another Listening to Music Without Understanding it post! The Black Keys haven’t released a new album since then, so it’s still pretty accurate in that regard…


Hello and welcome again for another post in my Listening to Music Without Understanding It series. It’s time for another in-depth look at some music, and this week, it’s The Black Keys. 

I was hoping to write something up with them earlier on, in advance of their new album coming out. Then their new album came out a week earlier than I was expecting, and there went that plan! With it out, I wanted to give it some time, check it out, and then report my thoughts. I think we’ve made it to that point!

I also just read the interview of Jack White in Rolling Stone the other day. In it, he kind of called out The Black Keys for riding in on his coat-tails – a fellow two-person rock and blues combo band, coming to popularity after The White Stripes. And I have to admit, I started listening to The Black Keys after listening to Jack White and his many projects. However, the reason I really explored them, and really started to pay attention, is different, and so I will share a bit of an introduction to the band, to why I like them, and hopefully I will leave you interested in them for their own sake!

I’m a Lonely Boy… 

If you look at The Black Keys as starting with their hit album El Camino, then yes, maybe they are just a recently-popular band without a history. After all, you probably know them from this:

And oh man, is that a catchy dance. A catchy song. It’s fantastic, and a great way to start an album. From there, I would actually describe El Camino as a musical. I can almost see it, as the album goes on. Lonely Boy is the opening act, and then it moves on from there, song by song, a narrator telling his stories, moving through a town. Interesting to think of it all as the same characters in the songs, really, as well.

This was not where I first came across The Black Keys, however. That was with their prior album, Brothers. Continue reading

5 Rediscovered Albums

I used to make playlists a lot, and play them shuffled. Shuffle them up again and again until the order looked good and interesting. There’s lots of songs that just kind of sneak their way into my playlists, songs that I’m used to hearing as random singles in a playlist rather than in their normal context. I’ve had one really good playlist like that which I’ve just kind of been widgeting around with for a few years, in between listening to albums.

So I’ve been working on making a new, mondo playlist. Lots of my favorites from tons of artists. It’s a work in progress, as I’ve worked from one artist’s work to the next alphabetically. And in doing so, I’ve found some music I haven’t listened to in years, songs that I had loved from listening to the album as a whole, or maybe on some older playlists. So I thought I would share 5 of the great ones I’ve rediscovered!

Alien Ant Farm – truANT

I figure most people know Alien Ant Farm from their cover of “Smooth Criminal.” The rest of that first album (ANThology) was pretty great too, with my favorite song by far being “Universe.” Meanwhile, their third album was really good, and I spent a listened to it pretty obsessively for quite a while – oh, “She’s Only Evil…” I got almost burnt out on that album, but remembered my love for it.

But their middle album, truANT? Had kind of forgotten how much fun that album was.

truANT is a blast. I’ve definitely had “Hope” stuck in my head several times since I rediscovered this album. They have a pretty recent album after a long hiatus, but I haven’t listened to it much…

Coldplay – Parachutes

I found Coldplay because of “Clocks,” with that piano line, with the light show and the song and all. While they have successively lost me over time, the album I went to after A Rush of Blood to the Head was Parachutes, their first album. And really, they have probably not outdone themselves with anything they’ve done since.

So many good songs on this album, beyond the singles that I had actually known before knowing the artist: “Trouble” and “Yellow.” It’s an album that put them on the map, defined their sound, and wasn’t to be repeated.

Dirty Vegas – One

Here’s another band where I can probably say there’s one song that most of you know this band for: “Days Go By,” with the amazing dancing. There’s another one where the original album was great, and includes several of the songs nearest and dearest to my heart. And hey, it’s another band with a long hiatus as well, with some more recent stuff which I’ve listened to a bit…

However, after their solidly Euro-techno start, I remember reading that the band found that they loved doing concerts, and that it’s harder to tour and concert with their more heavily produced techno music. So their second album, One, was a much more “standard” sort of album. It’s quite the departure from their original sound, and I don’t think it was very well received. Taken on its own, however, One is a great album.

Some of the great lyrics and singing like the first album, but trading in strings for the techno… I like it. Definitely one to check out if you don’t know it.

The Dead Weather – Horehound

A side project of Jack White’s, The Dead Weather’s first album was apparently put together in a matter of weeks, and released with some pretty raw early sorts of recordings of the songs. However, rough and raw songs presented in a rough and raw way kind of works. The songs are perhaps a bit ridiculous (“Treat Me Like Your Mother“), but the album as a whole is strong.

With The Dark Tower on the mind, this song’s always made me think of those books:

Hey, pretty good live recording!

Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi – Rome

Ironically, Rome led me down a path of music that I still haven’t completely come back from… and yet the album itself (which I listened to on repeat for quite a while once discovered) I haven’t listened to in quite a while.

Oh my gosh, there’s an official music video for that song? Alright then. Princess Mononoke, anyone?

This album is great, with instrumental songs interspersed with Jack White and Norah Jones. Just beautiful. This is one to listen to if you haven’t, absolutely.


I may end up doing this again, if I have more rediscovered finds from later in the alphabet! But for now, let me know what you think of these nostalgia albums! That, or let me know what you think about how easy it is to find music on YouTube, wow…

New from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Danger Mouse – The Getaway

It’s not really a secret that I love music producer Danger Mouse, and his band the Broken Bells is one of my very favorites. I make a habit of checking his Wikipedia page on occasion, watching his discography to see what he’s been working on. That’s how I knew he’d been working with U2 – before that U2 album ended up dropped (for free) on everyone with an iTunes account… It’s also how I knew he’d been working with the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their new album.

Said album is out now! It’s been 5 years since their last album, so I imagine there’s a lot of their fans who are a lot more excited about their return than about the Danger Mouse aspect… I love the Red Hot Chili Peppers in singles form, at least, but I rarely seem to make it through a full album listening. So I had trepidations going into this…

Continue reading