Time for the fourth and final installment in our look at a prolific decade’s work by Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse. Here we look at the years 2009 and 2010 (so far) as well as a brief gaze into our crystal ball to try and figure out what’s next for one of the most influential producers of the 21st century so far. Be sure to read up on parts 1, 2 and 3 in case you missed them.
Joker’s Daughter- The Last Laugh
Helena Costas (Joker’s Daughter) and Danger Mouse made plans to work on “The Last Laugh” all the way back in 2003, before the Grey Album propelled DM into the international spotlight. Finally getting a release last year, Costas’ debut is serious change of pace for Danger Mouse. NPR wrote “Utterly entrancing…like a creepy circus colliding with a polka band gone electronic, complete with quickly bouncing rhythms and plenty of theatrical presence.”
Listen To: Worm’s Head
Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse present Dark Night of the Soul
“Dark Night of the Soul” was only officially released last week, despite it’s availability online for over a year. The reason for the delay remains somewhat of a mystery, however it is believed to center around a dispute between EMI (the label who finally released the record) and Lex Records (whom Danger Mouse has released many of his previous works with).
The album has a fascinating history. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse (Mark Linkous) worked together on Linkous’ previous album, “Dreamt for Years in the Belly of a Mountain). For their second effort, they recorded the music first, then sent the tracks to David Lynch, who produced a series of 50 photographs inspired by the music. Danger Mouse and Linkous then wrote lyrics based on the photographs and set about signing-on a all-star series of vocalists and collaborators to perform them. The final tally includes Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, James Mercer of the Shins, Iggy Pop, The Flaming Lips and many others (including David Lynch himself).
Due to the aforementioned legal tussle with EMI the album was originally released as a series of photographs with a blank CD simply stating “For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.”
Tragically Linkous brutally took his own life earlier this year, before the album was officially released. Guest vocalist Vic Chestnut also committed suicide in between recording and release. As you would imagine, the album itself is no cheery walk in the park, however in addition to the moody, haunting overtones there is no shortage of really uplifting tracks as well.
Danger Mouse’s own description of the creative process:
I first met Mark Linkous after I released The Grey Album in 2004. His manager played him my album and told him that I was a Sparklehorse fan, so he took an interest. We began working on Dark Night of the Soul in 2005. It became obvious that both Mark and I wanted to write songs that were melodically out of our range, or at least just not within the realms of what we could bring as performers, so we thought about who would be right for each song. The first one we worked on together was Just War, which Gruff Rhys performs, because Mark didn’t think his own singing could do it justice.
I like that the album starts with Revenge, it’s a really dark, grand song. It’s a good example of how working with different people can be unpredictable. We had a cool idea for what we wanted the song to be, something more humble and laidback, and when Wayne (Coyne, of the Flaming Lips) came on board he took it somewhere bigger and darker than we had imagined. It’s a good introduction to the album; there’s a heaviness about the whole thing, but at the same time the melodies are really pretty.
Working with Mark wasn’t always easy. To be honest, it’s difficult for me to talk about. We’re both producers with completely different styles – this album was a much longer process than I’m used to, but for him it was much shorter. I think we both knew that making a record we were happy with would be difficult, but no matter how hard it was we were always friends who could just hang out with each other. And the outcome was absolutely worth it.
Listen To: The whole thing, it’s really worth it.
Broken Bells- Broken Bells
Broken Bells is Danger Mouse’s collaboration with the Shin’s frontman James Mercer. The two originally met at the 2004 Rokslide music festival, but it was not until 4 years later that they started work on the Broken Bells project. The project was kept under tight wraps until late 2009, when the first single, “The High Road” was released as a free download.
Listen To: The High Road
The Black Keys- Brothers
After listening to “Brothers” it is clear that the Black Keys learned a lot during their 2008 collaboration with Danger Mouse with their first collaboration “Attack and Release.” So much so, perhaps, that the duo decided to go it (mostly) alone for their 6th studio album. They recruited Danger Mouse for production duties on “Tighten Up,” however the rest of the album is Black Key’s original, and as a result their sound echoes back to the rawer sound of their earlier work.
Listen To: “Tighten Up” “Everlasting Light”
When recently asked what he was up to, Danger Mouse responded: “not working on anything, and that’s very, very rare for me,” but cryptically added, “I have stuff that I’ve finished that I can’t really talk about.”
What that finished material is, who he’s worked with to produce it and what it’s going to sound like are are anyone’s guesses at this point. But according to Danger Mouse we won’t have to wait too long to find out.
“Yeah, there are plans, there are always plans for stuff like that. The timing is the thing that winds up being undetermined — it depends on each person’s schedule. Right now, I’m pretty relaxed, taking it easy with all the stuff I have that’s already finished and is coming out in the next year or two.”
Needless to say, we’re looking forward to it.