Review: Lux Prima by Karen O and Danger Mouse

I was a fan of Karen O since her days as the vocalist for The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  Though I have to admit that a lot of their stuff was very hit or miss for me.   Regardless of how I may have felt about a particular style, I’ve always remained a fan of Karen’s voice. I often get excited when an artist does something so different from previous work and after hearing a sample of the title track in January and heard the dramatic shift in singing style, my interest was piqued, but I reserved judgment.  I reserved judgment all the way through the first 4 minutes of the title track “Lux Prima”.   


Midway through “Lux Prima” Karen O’s vocals kick in.  It was strongly reminiscent of Air’s “Le Femme D’argent”.  Not because I found it derivative, but because it evoked a sense of excitement that I hadn’t experienced about an album of this type since “Moon Safari”.  In fact, there were many aspects of this album that reminded me of Blue States as well.  Both groups mixed ethereal and dreamy music, bass lines, and female vocals to make evocative albums.  Where those albums injected vocals into their music sporadically, for Lux Prima, it was the point.  And it was incredible.    


To say I am a fan of Danger Mouse would be inaccurate.  I’ve followed his work, mostly because I’m always curious to see how he influences the artists he works with.  He definitely has a style and a signature without being repetitive.  You can always feel his presence in the collaborations he participates in.  It might be more accurate to call me a student of his.  If you aren’t familiar with his work, he first gained notoriety with his mashup of The Beatles “White Album” and Jay-Z’s “Black Album”, appropriately titled “Grey Album”.  Since then, he has worked with Beck, U2, and more recently The Black Keys (whose album we will be reviewing). 


The collaboration was announced several years ago, and apparently first conceived after Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton had just finished working on Beck’s “Modern Guilt” in 2008.  According to Karen, she’d drunk dialed Burton from Europe to tell him they should “work together”. 

Some have said that the album wandered, or that it lacked direction.  Karen O’s admission in an interview with Rolling Stone, that they “didn’t plan anything before going into the studio.”, would seem to support this.  I disagree with the critics.  I found Danger Mouse’s contribution to the album tied the whole thing together quite nicely.  There was no doubt from the time that the collaboration was announced (nearly ten years ago) that there was an experimental component to it.  And I think anyone listening to it, should make room in their minds for that. 


If you are looking for a Yeah Yeah Yeahs album with a little Danger Mouse stink on it, this is not the album for you.  But if you are looking for two artists taking each other, and their listeners to a place they haven’t been before, you’re in luck.  You can find tracks from the album on Youtube, starting with the title track here.  I recommend having a listen before deciding if you want to buy.  However, if you like the album I suggest you support the artist by buying it.

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