Top 10 Albums of 2014 – #10: After the Disco by Broken Bells

15 Dec


There was a time, I figure, in the wee morning hours of a Saturday in the 1970s when the last remaining bell-bottomed disco dancers stumbled onto the street, tired and bedraggled with sweat and the last remnants of a Donna Summers song, when the disco was physically empty but still bulging with the swollen heat of the night. In that small gap before the clean-up crew cleansed the disco in advance of another night of musical debauchery is where I picture Broken Bells’ second LP release, After the Disco, set and recorded. I have this image of band members James Mercer and Brian Burton climbing onto the weary stage and playing a few tracks to a crowd of memories; the music, a delightful mix of spacey modern disco tracks mixed with an alternative rock groove 20-30 years before its time. This thought exhilarates me, so much so that After the Disco is #10 on the list of top albums of 2014.

After the success of its eponymous debut in 2010 and follow-up EP in 2011, Broken Bells, a super-group made up of Shins’ frontman Mercer and revered producer Burton, was urged to release a follow-up, and After the Disco is that, a wildly entertaining, drawn-out, alt/space/rock agglutination of musical influences and decades. The album was recorded with a 4-piece choir and the 17-piece Angel City String Orchestra, which was conducted by Daniele Luppi, Danger Mouse’s partner on the 2011 album Rome. The album met with much praise, reaching the top spot on the Billboard Top Rock Album and Alternative Album chart and #3 on the Top 200 Albums list. It is an 11-track ode to music in the late 70s and early 80s, a depiction of a difficult musical transition that featured fizzling disco and incipient punk.

“Holding on for Life” is the top track on the album. It features the airy voice of Mercer in front of a tamed disco-like beat that shines like a slowed disco ball, almost like a disco track slowed down to a steady but unhurried pace. It is a song that just needs to be listened to, so I will let it do the talking.

You can check out the rest of the album on Broken Bells’ website. Make sure to follow the band on Facebook and Twitter

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