james mercer

Air Review – Young

Air Review Album Cover

When I first head Air Review‘s dreamy track, Young, I was like “What the folk!?” but puns aside, this right here is some seriously good folk music. It possesses that fantastical aspect that made Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes famous and retains the simple energized style that I look for in good folk music. Douglas Hale, the lead singer of Air Review has a beautifully meek voice that reminds me of James Mercer of the Shins. All you folksters out there make sure Air Review is on your radar because they are pumping out some impressive tracks, Damn Impressive.

Air Review on Facebook – Air Review on Twitter –  Air Review’s Website – Air Review on Soundcloud


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The Shins – September

More new Shins! Good stuff. I posted “Simple Song,”  their first single off of Port of Morrow, their new full-length release set to drop on March 20th, and now we have a stream of the b-side of Simple Song, titled “September.”

I actually like this one a lot more than Simple Song–it has much more of a Shins feel to it, in my opinion. The guitar is almost a little twangy, which is interesting.

James Mercer’s voice sounds as on point as always…I can’t wait for Port of Morrow, I think it will be really interesting to see how their band has grown in the past few years.

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Dream Big


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The Shins – Simple Song

This one took me by surprise when I saw it tweeted out by Confusion over at Pigeons and Planes. I was immediately excited; I haven’t heard new music from James Mercer and the Shins in longer than I can remember, other than Mercer’s work with Dangermouse on Broken Bells. It’s been five years since the last Shins project, and any new Shins music is really exciting for me. Port of Morrow, their new album, is set to release on March 20th on Mercer’s imprint label. I’ve been a Shins fan since their first album, Oh, Inverted World, and songs like A Comet Appears, Caring is Creepy, Australia, and Sleeping Lessons remind me distinctly of memories throughout my life. Music always has an interesting ability to stir up old memories, of people and places remembered or forgotten, in a way that almost no other art can.

We Will Become Silhouettes, a cover of Ben Gibbard’s Postal Service’s song of the same name, reminds me of driving around my hometown when I first got my driver’s license–makes me miss early fall in Chicago. This one’s a little more “Know Your Onion!” than “New Slang,” which can sound a little annoying if you’re not in the right mood, but Mercer’s still got it and I dig the straightforwardness of the song, aptly titled “Simple Song.” The fast guitar riff that plays at times throughout the song is pretty awesome, kind of showy in a Queen-esque manner. I can’t stop wanting to compare the Shins to this millennium’s answer to Yes–does anybody else see that?

Dream Big


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Austin City Limits Preview: Broken Bells

Thanks to so many devoted fans, friends, family members, and the like, I was chosen to be a writer for Austin City Limits this year. I was asked to preview 3 of the bands who will be playing at the Festival (October 8-10), and this is the first one that I am releasing.

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Imagine sitting on the moon looking out at the orbiting planets, flickering stars, and infinite galaxies. Close your eyes and imagine the sounds you might hear.

If I had to describe my imaginations, I’d say that I see movement, hear echoes, feel the endless possibilities, and absorb infinite amounts of energy through osmosis. Funny thing is, I feel the same emotions when I hear the warm voice of James Mercer paired with the progressive musical patterns of Brian Burton. Mysterious, timeless, knowing no boundaries.

If you’ve yet to be graced with their talents, let me introduce you to Broken Bells. James Mercer, frontman from The Shins, and Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse, teamed up to form a band that immediately caught people’s attention, a band known for its lyrical density and mastery of the alternative rock genre. Personally, I couldn’t ask for a more unlikely pairing – which, in itself, just happens to be my favorite aspect of Broken Bells. When I think of James Mercer and The Shins, I automatically think of the Garden State soundtrack. Not even in my wildest dreams would I make the connection to Danger Mouse, the producer who created The Grey Album (a mashup of The Beatles and Jay-Z), a Gorillaz album, a Beck album, and is a member of Gnarls Barkley. But after meeting at a music festival in 2004 and taking a liking to one another’s music, Mercer and Burton started talking, and, much to the rest of the world’s benefit, released an album titled Broken Bells six years later.

In an age where collaborations and blended genres seem to be luring in listeners left and right, Mercer and Burton were not an inch shy of genius when they decided to pair up. What makes the music so intriguing is the fact that it merges Burton’s expertise in hip hop, electronica, and funk with Mercer’s ability to soothe the tympanic muscles with his voice that, in my opinion, belongs in the modern-day indie-rock Hall of Fame.

When the two artists merge into Broken Bells, they create a world of music with mystical and enigmatic qualities. It is impossible to get bored while listening to the album, because each song adds a whole new dimension to the repertoire. James Mercer’s voice is the one constant factor that ignites a sense of familiarity with each song you hear. Otherwise, some songs, such as “Mongrel Heart,” are haunting and dark, while others, like “Citizen,” sound much lighter, more reminiscent of The Shins’ music. “The High Road,” arguably the most well-known track, opens the album with a bang – it’s memorable, it’s got a splash of pop to it, it’s got a beat will get anybody’s head nodding, and its lyrics are poignant and deep.

I am sad to say that I have yet to see Broken Bells perform live. I hear their shows are absolutely incredible – the combination of a mind-blowing backdrop that is rumored to be a visual masterpiece, a talented live band, a gradual build-up of energy as the night progresses, and the heart-melting beauty of two powers combining make for an unforgettable performance. Luckily, Broken Bells are set to perform at this year’s Austin City Limits Festival on Friday, October 8th! In the meantime, I highly recommend you dive head-first into the 10-track album, Broken Bells. When you find yourself transported to the moon watching the planets orbit around you, you just might come back to thank me.

“The High Road” – Broken Bells”

“Citizen” – Broken Bells

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