Broken Bells — the collaboration between Danger Mouse and the Shins’ James Mercer — couldn’t have picked a more appropriate title for their second record. After the Disco sounds just like that. Like you’ve left the party but are still just enthused enough to put the music on at home.
The first half of the record bounces along energetically. Danger Mouse’s hip-hop background and Mercer’s pop sensibilities make for catchy songwriting. “Control” and “The Changing Lights,” for instance, will get you in the groove, even if Mercer’s voice can sound a little forlorn. Sometimes the music is so plainly the product of these two musicians. “Hold On For Life” pairs up some airy acoustic guitar with a rubbery bass pulse and shimmery atmospherics.
And, yes, the production does have some elements of disco. It’s what comes after the disco that holds some of these songs back. The ‘80s-style keys on “The Angel and the Fool” feel cheesy, and the strings on “The Remains of Rock & Roll” are too much. Again, they picked a title that hit the nail on the head. Is this ‘80s throwback stuff what’s left of indie rock?
Still, there’s a lot of great music on After the Disco. There are enough pretty details to comb through over repeated listens, and some of it will even make you want to dance, even if it’s alone in your bedroom.