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Karen O and Danger Mouse, Lux Prima (Review)

The up and down nature of Karen O and Danger Mouse’s ‘Lux Prima’

Karen O, lead singer of the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs, and DJ/producer of Danger Mouse this past March, released a new album entitled, Lux Prima via BMG. This is the first release from her since 2014’s Crush Songs. Danger Mouse last worked on an album with the release of Parquet Court’s,  Wide Awaaaaake!

The album is a bit uneven. It simply cannot find any real sense of an identity. Lux Prima sounds like three albums in one. Tracks completely change their sound on a dime without any notice. Perhaps this was the intention, but it makes for a difficult listen.

The first few tracks including “Lux Prima,” “Ministry,” and “Turn the Light” can best be described as lush, classic, and quintessential Danger Mouse. These tracks have taken a page out of his Broken Bells discography, which serve as the highlight of the album. These are some very beautiful pop songs, creating an amazing combination of Danger Mouse’s classical music production and O’s iconic voice.

The middle of the album, in tracks “Woman,” “Redeemer,” and “Leopards Tongue”, sees the sound of the album move towards something much closer to O’s Yeah Yeah Yeah’s catalog. These tracks are heavier on the guitar and you hear that punk sound of her earlier material combined with the lush sounds of Grey Album era Danger Mouse. At times, the two forces of O and Danger Mouse work well together despite the same lyrics being yelled out in a chorus over and over. The songs are good, not great, but hindered by her need to be unnecessarily repetitive too often. This turns a promising and interesting album into one that lives in the realm of dull and boring.

The one notable exception is the track “Drown,” which probably should have been the fourth track on this album as it more closely resembles the style found earlier in the work.

Lux Prima concludes with tracks “Reveries” and “Nox Lumina” they slow the album to a snail’s pace, possibly an attempt to put the listener to sleep. There is a gradual crescendo in “Nox Lumina”, but the track never really goes anywhere. These tracks are a reminder of her last solo album, Crush Songs, which embodied a depressing atmosphere, not just because of the sadness the songs evoked, but also the boredom it created.

The final track ends in such a strange and bizarre way that the listener is left wondering, is that it? This album is a confusing entity because it is the first time I can remember feeling great excitement after the first couple of tracks, then gradually suffering more and more disappointment as the listener is taken to places they do not wish to experience. Yet, that has always been what you get when it comes to Karen O. She has always been more avant-garde than accessible with her music. An album from her that takes the turn towards the weird is really not all that surprising when you think about it. The disappointment emerges from those first few tracks as the listen wonders what might have been.

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