Karen O and Danger Mouse have been prolific collaborators across the years: the former has worked with the likes of Ezra Koenig and Michael Kiwanuka if she’s not fronting the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, while the latter is one-half of both Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells, apart from his long production list. It was inevitable they’d meet, although we kept that possibility in the realms of fantasy festivals. But, well, here it is, and it’s as glorious and messy as we expected it to be. Lux Prima sees the two find an intersection in the cinematic side of the 60s: Danger Mouse’s music has leaned towards that many times, while Karen’s got the vocals for that. The record finds itself so deeply immersed in that sound that it can feel like just a study in textures rather than an effort to make pop songs, which is not a criticism, but can be a frustration. Everything is sprawling, but not too much, things punctuated by some smart funky turns in production, but most especially Karen’s voice, which adapts well to whatever is thrown at her. But I shall not complain, for this might not happen again. When two frequent collaborators finally come together, the result will be tasty no matter what. [NB] | 3/5
I expected Broken Bells to be a one-off, but the collaboration between Danger Mouse and the Shins’ James Mercer has been given another go. After the Disco is not dissimilar to their self-titled debut, only it sounds poppier – which is always a good thing; the two have consciously drifted away from the sounds they’ve worked with in their day jobs. It’s not quite disco-ey, though – the closest you will get is the Bee Gees-lite chorus on “Holding On for Life” – but the name is apt: a collection of songs for when you wind down, a bit of an electronic beat, but nothing really challenging. There are times when you still hear the Shins, but it’s few and far between: from the title track to the album’s high point, “Perfect World”, it seems Broken Bells have figured out what works and what doesn’t. Well, mostly. And the result is a pleasant pop record. [NB] | 4/5
“Holding On For Life” by Broken Bells | Sure, the big hook in the chorus of this new song from Broken Bells channels a bit of the Bee Gees, but not the whole song – so count me in the (small?) camp of “what exactly are you talking about?” I mean, when I first read the hype copy for this song I absolutely thought it would be very much like Saturday Night Ever-era Bee Gees, full of swing and vigor. But this is what you’d expect from James Mercer and Danger Mouse’s surprisingly prolific collaboration: a pop song that says a lot during its quiet moments. But yes, the album is called After the Disco, and their interview with NPR suggests a more (unsurprising) indie disco direction. But there will be surprises. I mean, Broken Bells’ first album was a bit of a sleeper hit, after all. After the Disco hits stores in January. [NB]
“The High Road” by Joss Stone | Well, Joss definitely kept this a bit under wraps. She’s getting a new album out. The Soul Sessions Vol. 2 goes for the same formula which she started with: her take on a wide range of songs.
Only this time it sounds a bit different, since Dave Stewart, who produced her last album LP1, is still at the helm – so the flavor of soul here will be quite different. I misread. Steve Greenberg, who produced her earlier albums, is back at the helm – and yet the soul in this album, or at least what I heard so far, sounds different. Her cover of “While You Were Out Looking For Sugar” is the first single, but I’ll point you towards this, her cover of Broken Bells’ “The High Road”. It’s one of my favorite indie tracks from the last few years – and one that I definitely did not expect to get covered like this. It oddly works. Joss gets her soulful gravitas back, and I’m glad.