Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Eclectic and interesting pop from Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse

I have been a fan of Danger Mouse (born Brian Burton) since I picked up the Danger Doom project, “The Mouse and the Mask,”  a concept album inspired by Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming on which he collaborated with MF Doom. That album inspired me to seek out “The Grey Album,” a brilliant mash-up of The Beatles’ “White Album” with Jay-Z’s “Black Album.” I was tickled when I then found Danger Mouse’s project, Gnarls Barkley. He has been nominated for a Producer of the Year Grammy and is just generally involved in lots of interesting projects.

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse combine to form... Minilamb.

2010 was a busy year for Danger Mouse. In addition to producing the Black Keys latest album, “Brothers,”  and releasing an album with his rock band, Broken Bells (which I only discovered today), he released an album with respected alt-rock band, Sparklehorse, called “Dark Night of the Soul.”

You may know that Sparklehorse front man Mark Linkous killed himself in March of 2010. “Dark Night of the Soul” was his last release. He had written a bunch of songs he was not comfortable singing and when he talked about it with Danger Mouse, they came up with the idea of recording the songs with a series of guest vocalists. So the album features an enormous cast of guest vocalists, most of whom were given a great deal of creative input into the songs they sang.

Guest personnel on “Dark Night of the Soul” include James Mercer of The Shins, The Flaming Lips, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Frank Black of the Pixies, Iggy Pop, Nina Persson of The Cardigans, Suzanne Vega, and more. There are a bunch of great performances on the album and, as you might expect with such a wide variety of performers helping write the material, it ranges around in many styles. Danger Mouse is a musical chameleon, so this presented no difficulty for him.

Here are my 3 favorites:

  • Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It) – Film maker David Lynch is the guest on this one and he actually does a beautiful job crooning this slow and ethereal ballad backed by almost calliope-like keyboards, guitar, and ringing percussion.
  • Insane Lullaby – James Mercer of The Shins lends his talents to this track. The vocal melody sounds like familiar Shins material, but the instruments behind him are a cunningly mixed mélange of bells, strings, and some unidentifiable scratching or feedback.
  • The Man Who Played God – Suzanne Vega is back and apparently hasn’t lost a step. This is a beautiful, largely acoustic track with a really appealing vocal melody sung in Vega’s familiar breathy, sexy lilt.

It’s always sad when someone takes their own life, but the loss is multiplied when that person clearly still has so much to contribute and so much pleasure he or she can still bring to other people. Of course, one hopes Linkous rests in peace and that his friends and family can find peace as well. And he left behind a legacy of music.

Meanwhile, I continue to be impressed time and time again by the varied and brilliant work of Danger Mouse. I will look forward to hearing Broken Bells, when I can lay my hands on a copy, and anything else he puts his own hands to in the future.

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August 9, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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