SXSW 2010 Quick Hits, Day 1: Broken Bells

I caught up with Broken Bells here at Stubbs since they followed Jones with an 11:00 PM set. The new band from the Shins’ James Mercer and Danger Mouse was definitely one of the most buzzed about. This probably comes from the fact that the Shins have quite simply become one of the most influential bands of the 21st century’s first decade. The Broken Bells sound a lot like the Shins, frankly, due to the distinctive voice and talent of James Mercer. But there’s less guitar and more keys and samples, triggered by Mr. Mouse on drums. The band has a groovy if laid back sound that seemed to hold the crowd’s attention fairly well. “Vaporize” and “Mongrel Heart” both have that classic Shins-y vocal from Mercer over a Shins-y type of groove, which seemed to resonate. The last two songs also featured more guitar, which helped build the energy some more, with Danger Mouse also playing guitar at the end over a sampled beat. It wasn’t the dazzling set that SXSWers have come to expect from evening showcases at Stubbs, but this is a new band, so it’s only logical that they might need some time to develop. There’s definitely some potential here, though.

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