This edition of Future Sounds features two groups from across the pond, which are more than likely to find themselves slapped with the ‘supergroup’ label. First up are Broken Bells, a new duo consisting of Danger Mouse – that is, Brian Burton, one half of Gnarls Barkley, as opposed to the tiny white fictional mouse – and James Mercer of The Shins. But fear not Shins fans, Mercer isn’t planning to drop them for good – though he does claim to be a bit exhausted from all that alternative rock twiddling, and is going to take a break from any major stuff until 2011.
This month saw Broken Bells’ first single, ‘The High Road’, a delectable taste of what’s to come from their self-titled debut album, due in March. It’s a chilled track that effortlessly blends acoustic guitar riffs with electronic keys and a woodwind-esque melody, all entwined with Mercer’s passionate vocals. Another track ‘Vaporize’ follows a similar formula, and sounds like the soundtrack to a hazy Indian summer. It is easy to see why the collaborative efforts of Burton and Mercer have caused quite a stir in the music world, and Broken Bells will make their eagerly awaited live debut at the eminent South by Southwest festival this spring.
Next in line are the Atlanta group The Constellations, who have a frequently changing line-up, currently featuring Elijah Jones from Gates of Berlin, and five other musicians including Julian Dorio of The Whigs. The line-up is completed by Alaina Terry and Shab Bashiri, who are the band’s official ‘Clap Squad’, and provide backing vocals and onstage entertainment. Guest appearances include the college-loving Asher Roth and the other half of Gnarls Barkley, Cee-Lo.
The Constellations describe themselves as a ‘psychedelic soul-rock explosion’
The Constellations describe themselves as a ‘psychedelic soul-rock explosion’, and their music lives up to this title; their track ‘Setback’ is a throwback to 60s psychedelia, whilst ‘Love Is A Murder’ combines a grungy guitar line with an airy pop-infused chorus.
Their version of the Tom Waits tune ‘Step Right Up’ is a nine minute unabashed funk-fest that the band pull off with ease, Elijah’s southern drawl fitting perfectly with the lyrics about whiskey, bar fights and a generally hedonistic rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. It even crescendoes into a big electro-crossed-with-samba-style drumming finale that I defy you not to get down and dance to.
Currently on tour with Snoop Dogg over in the US, The Constellations will be bringing their retro soundscapes to the UK this March, although only in London. Alas Broken Bells tell a similar story, only gracing our shores once in London next month. But it’s a fair bet that the summer festival season will give the rest of us a chance to see both bands in action, a sight not to be missed.