Worth the wait
For the duo Broken Bells, Into the Blue marks their first feature-length album in eight years. Drawing from an eclectic amount of inspirations, the duo paints with broad brushstrokes, creating something simultaneously familiar and experimental. Their album does not seek to define a singular sound, instead delving through a wide range of genres. The production glows throughout its entirety, never creating a dull moment for the record’s 41-minute runtime.
To start out the album, the titular track is a sort of exploration into psychedelic rock. With plucky strings and droning, lethargic vocals in its introduction, the song starts out slow before blooming into the multi-faceted production that defines the album so well. This is especially true of the closing of the track is really well done, with the choir-like backing vocals and dark, droning bell toll, creating a sort of palette cleanser to prepare listeners for the journey they are about to embark on.
“We’re Not In Orbit Yet” leans more heavily on the synthesizer to back the vocalist in the verses. However, the chorus is where the song truly shines. Beyond the shining, glossy hook the chorus has an undeniably passionate melody that connects so beautifully with the background vocals. The song pulls back to a laid-back, bare-bones approach before exploding into nothing short of a poignant guitar solo, screaming from the more gentle track before it. It creates a dynamic that undeniably marks the desire to create a diverse album wearing its influences in 1960s rock on its sleeve.
But perhaps the most impactful song is “Love on the Run,” a track that so deeply connects with the listener. Even with the immaculate songwriting, the beauty in the song is undeniable. From the beginning, one gets the impression of it is a subdued piano ballad. However, as the production builds to warbling guitars, brass, and disco-inspired beats, the song has so much more intense than it would be without it. No doubt are there times for a piano ballad. But here, in this track, the choruses hit like a warm, declarative earnestness. It’s addictive, perhaps more so than any other part of the album. There is a true appreciation for all forms, with attention to detail of the entire album coming to its peak here. Just listen to the end! The instrumental break goes on for minutes yet still has such a beauty to it that keeps getting more and more interesting, nuanced, and explosive in its adoration of its subject.
“Saturdays” comes similarly comes from a bright, shining field. Its eerie, billowy introduction acts as a red herring for the catchy, ’60s-inspired rock chorus. A traditional, catchy bassline pairs nicely with the vocal performances here to provide an undeniably upbeat track. Compare that to the darker, lower-register songs such as “Forgotten Boy” to show just how diverse the duo is. In drones and low, looping bass, the tracks being back-to-back shows just how the band wants to create a sound that refuses to be caged into specific elements and influences.
To close the album, “Fade Away” pairs keyboard, bass, and violin to create a more brooding outro. In its poetic remarks (“youth is a memory for that fever dream” is a highlight), the duo creates a song that contrasts with the earlier parts of the album. Not dividing completely from the first part of the album, there is still enough connective tissue to create a unified sound. However, it is clear that there is more of a ’80s rock ballad influence here, creating an interesting progression from the psychedelic influences that mark the opening. It creates a well-rounded, refreshing take on the genre without getting lost in the source material. For almost a decade without an album release, many Broken Bells fans will be happy that this album was worth the wait.