James Mercer: The Shins and Broken Bells
The Shins have been one of my favorite bands for much of the past decade. For several years I thought that they were from Australia, because they had a song by that name, but one day not all that long ago Carlyn pointed out to me that they were from New Mexico and not in fact from Australia. I like New Mexico too though so the new knowledge about the band did not dissuade me from enjoying their music.
James Mercer is the sole original member of the Indie Rock/Pop Band the Shins. When Mercer wanted to take the band in a new direction he reconvened the band with all new members save for himself. Mercer remains the bands front man functioning as the song writer, lead vocalist and guitarist. The Shins first came together in the mid 1990s and had a small but loyal following until they were propelled into the public spotlight by their hit song New Slang, off their studio album Oh Inverted World in 2001. New Slang was used in the movie Garden State which helped it's (the songs and the bands) popularity to explode. I have never seen the movie, even though it has come well recommended from a few friends, but having heard New Slang on the radio I was immediately taken by it's somber and melodramatic lyrics.
While I liked New Slang I did not pay much attention to the Shins until they came out with their third album Wincing the Night Away in 2007. That is when I really became a fan. I had heard the song Sleeping Lessons on a television advertisement for a running shoe. When I searched on the internet to find out more about the song I saw that it was performed by the Shins. Already having been familiar with New Slang I figured I should purchase an album, now that I knew I enjoyed two of their songs. I now own Oh, Inverted World (2001), Chutes Too Narrow (2003) and Wincing the Night Away (2007) their first three albums. They have one other album Port of Morrow (2012) which I have heard some songs off of and also enjoy even though I do not own the album.
The Shins have also released a single for the movie I Wish I Were Here in 2014.
What really interested me about James Mercer though is when I found out that he was a member of a duo with Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) from Gnarles Barkley. Their collaboration is called Broken Bells. Broken Bells debut album was released in 2010 but I had only heard one of the bands songs and never made the connection between Broken Bells and James Mercer. It was when their second album After the Disco came out this past February, 2014 and I heard the single Holding on to Life that I researched Broken Bells and discovered Mercer was part of the duo of a new band I loved to listen to.
I feel as if back in the 1960s and 1970s several artists collaborated with each other and made some great music as members of a variety of bands. I'm sure that collaborations probably happen frequently today still but there are not too many artists I can think of whom have been members of two bands that I consider among my favorites. I hope that both the Shins and Broken Bells will continue to produce new music and that I will continue to enjoy Mercer's writing and singing.