Synth-Pop & Opinions on Broken Bells

Jim and Greg explore the roots of one of the most influential music genres today: Synth-Pop. Plus they review the collaboration between Danger Mouse and the Shins’ James Mercer, Broken Bells.

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Music News

Jim and Greg start off the show with some good music industry news. The Internet music service Pandora has reported its first profitable quarter since launching a decade ago. Pandora seemed to be on the path of many Internet startups of the early 2000s, but now it boasts about 48 million users and projected earning of $100 million for 2010. To this we say Mazel Tov.

OK Go has been making a lot of news recently. First, after some debates with their label EMI, they released a free, embeddable video for their new song This Too Shall Pass. This is a follow-up to the famous 2006 treadmills video for Here It Goes Again, which has been viewed over 50 million times. The band’s lead singer Damian Kulash discussed his philosophy on viral videos in an op-edin the New York Times. And just last week the band revealed that it had split from EMI to form a new label Paracadute. Prior to this announcement Jim and Greg spoke to Kulash about going viral, labels and going rogue.

OK Go

Synth-Pop

Next Jim and Greg embark on one of their trademark genre explorations. They’ve mentioned the term Synth-Pop a lot in the past year. The electronic sound of the 1980’s has been heavily influencing a slew of new bands including Passion Pit, MGMT and Phoenix. So where does that synth sound come from? Of course, Jim traces a line directly to Kraftwerk and Brian Eno, but notes that it wasn’t until technology became cheap and portable that it really came into the mainstream. He and Greg cite Daniel Miller of The Normal as an example of an artist who really embraced synthesizers and didn’t merely use them to replicate other instruments. And acts like the Human League developed the sound further to have more warmth and emotion.

Broken Bells Broken Bells

Broken Bells

Jim and Greg review the self-titled debut from Broken Bells, the new collaboration between James Mercer of The Shins and Danger Mouse. This is an unexpected pairing, but Jim and Greg are both impressed to hear each artist stretching. Greg notes that both are minimalists in their own right. And the first half of the record has one fine track after another. But he finds the second half slightly disappointing. Overall, though Greg gives Broken Bells a Buy It rating. Jim doesn’t understand Greg’s complaints. He doesn’t think the album falls off at any point. It’s a perfect collection of pop songs and deserves a Buy It.

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