Broken Bells is this year’s potential crossover success for the Shins’ singer/guitarist James Mercer and producer/multi-instrumentalist Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse. Anyone expecting Burton’s beat-driven studio alchemy may be disappointed, but the Shins’ fans should welcome the duo’s 10-track alternative/indie pop debut.

Initial single “The High Road” blends a trim melody and smooth electronic percussion that emulates both musicians’ prior material without being a carbon copy of either. Even better is catchy, medium-tempo “The Ghost Inside,” which pairs Mercer’s surprisingly effective falsetto with Burton’s loose-limned keys and resilient rhythms.

Mercer does not avoid his intimately downcast lyricism. Late-night meditation “Sailing to Nowhere” levitates melancholy to the nth degree, while the David Gray-meets-U2 “October” mingles cynicism with optimism.

Broken Bells’ first foray is far from perfect. There are appealing moments but also unsatisfactory instances that demonstrate disconcerted accord. This is a collaboration that could use further development.

Grade: B-



Broken Bells is currently available.