Maybe it was the excess of hype preceding Broken Bells' 2010 self-titled debut, but we couldn't help but feel slightly let down by how innocuous it felt. James Mercer and Brian Burton haven't changed up their formula too much since then, but their psychedelic soul-pop doesn't sound nearly as anemic this time around, and the whole album is rich with memorable hooks, as opposed to just the singles.
There's very little actual disco here, so don't worry that they've gone EDM - they're still basically a soft rock duo. It's easy to play spot-the-influence, but there's such a wide range of classic pop references that the mixture itself becomes its own distinct thing. One minute they sound like they're doing a new wave version of John Lennon, the next they're aping the Bee Gees, pastoral 70s folk pop and glitter-covered glam rock. There's nothing really new here, but who cares when it's executed this well?
Top track: No Matter What You're Told
Broken Bells play the Danforth Music Hall March 3.