Broken Bells

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The Shins frontman James Mercer and super-producer Danger Mouse are the celestial rock duo Broken Bells. The pair joins Sound Opinions in Portland, Oregon for a special live performance and conversation.

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While Taylor Swift fans may think she made history way back in 1989 by simply being born, the charts will remember Swift for the year 2014, as it marks the first time in twelve years that an artist’s album has sold more than one million copies in its debut week. This feat, achieved by Swift’s fifth studio album 1989, is no small one given our age of streaming music services and record leaks. That’s why the secret to Swift’s physical album sales success might just be her recent decision to pull all her music off of streaming music supergiant Spotify. Swift now joins a growing chorus of musicians like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke who reject Spotify’s business model, one that only pays artists a fraction of a penny for each stream of their songs. Spotify, of course, defends its model, but Swift stands by her assertion that music is art, art is valuable and therefore it should be paid for. And yes, by art she means Shake It Off.

On the opposite end of the commercial spectrum from superstar Taylor Swift is the self-described Liberian/Nigerian/Scottish psychedelic hip-hop electro boy band, Young Fathers. Despite the alternative hip-hop group’s relative obscurity, its album, Dead, just won the UK’s Mercury Prize, an annual honor given to the best British or Irish album of the year. The win was an upset for more buzzed about artists like FKA Twigs and Damon Albarn, and many criticize the award for favoring obscure bands that are never heard from again. To be fair, well-known and still active acts like PJ Harvey, Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys have taken the prize home in the past, but whether Young Fathers have staying power or not remains to be seen.

Broken Bells

James Mercer of The Shins and Brian Burton ( Danger Mouse) formed a band called Broken Bells that combines Mercer’s songwriting abilities with Burton’s incredible production techniques. The duo has released two albums under that moniker and the project has two fans in Jim and Greg. The band met at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark have continued to work together on-and-off since. Brian talks about their songwriting process which essentially boils down to late night chats about everything under the sun, and then putting those ideas to music in the studio. James describes how Brian pushed him as a singer—making him do take after take until he got it right. Broken Bells’ newest album As Greg notes, After the Disco is evocative of that 3 a.m. feeling when things wear off. The band joined Jim and Greg for a special performance at the historic Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, OR. The crowd was courtesy of our friends at opbmusic

Jim

Creambassist Jack Bruce recently passed away at age of 71, and as Jim explains, he played an important part in the ‘60s English music scene. Bruce had a long career as an underground musician playing jazz, rock and avant-garde music. To pay homage to him, Jim chose a song for the Desert Island Juxebox that was actually not from his time with Cream. Instead, he goes with Silver Bullet by the Golden Palominos. Jim had the pleasure of seeing the larger-than-live Bruce perform this track live, and he’ll never forget it.

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