Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Album Review: Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse - Dark Night of the Soul (3.5/5)

Dark Night of the Soul, a collaboration between mastermind producer/DJ Danger Mouse and the late Mark Linkous of Sparklehouse that consists of collaborations with other artists and artwork by none other than David Lynch is an album that almost wasn't. Although peppered with big-name guests like The Flaming Lips, Suzanne Vega, Iggy Pop and Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, legal wrangling almost kept this album, completed over a year ago, away from stores.

As such, it represents the second, albeit unintended, major album from Danger Mouse this year, following Broken Bells, his collaboration with James Mercer of the Shins (who also shows up here).

The opening tracks are among my favorites. "Revenge (feat. Flaming Lips)" has a laid back synth melody that gets an elegant lift from a lush strings arrangement. After Flaming Lips bizarre last album, it’s nice to hear them do something more conventional and quite nice. "Just War" is another lovely, laid back song with an ambling melody of synths and electric guitar. This also sounds a bit Flaming Lips-like, although it features Gruff Rhys Super Furry Animals. "Jaykup (feat. Jason Lytle)" has a retro ‘60s feel with distorted synth effects, bluesy electric guitar and acoustic guitar.

This get a little rougher after that. Julian Casablancas of The Strokes shows up on darker "Little Girl," which rocks harder than the laid back opening tracks with a great guitar solo. Black Francis of The Pixies appears on the grimy, strutting "Angel’s Harp," which although a bit rude, mellows out at the end. "Pain" with Iggy Pop is big and loud.

Then things get sweet again on "Star Eyes (feat. David Lynch)" with xylophone and vocal processed through an echo chamber a mix of the sweet and the eerie. "Everytime I’m with You (feat. Jason Lytle)" is a nice little melody. "Insane Lullaby" reunites (or rather preceded) Danger Mouse with James Mercer of the Shins. Its sound is fuzzy with sweet strings and guitar over it--quite different from Broken Bells.

"Daddy’s Gone (feat. Mark Linkous and Nina Persson)," another highlight, delivers a bit of country flavor in this warmer, mellow song. Then Suzanne Vega gives a welcome turn at the mic on "The Man Who Played God," which also has a pretty decent melody. Things sag a bit with the strange and weird "Grim Augury (feat. Vic Chestnutt)" before finishing on a high note with "Dark Night of the Soul (feat. David Lynch)," a cool song that sounds like it was composed with old musical elements—the scratchy piano recording, vibrating guitars from an old western.

With all the collaborations and moods, it's inevitable that an album like this will deliver highs and lows. So although I can't quite recommend the album as a whole, there are definitely some tracks worth checking out.

Best: Just War, Revenge, Dark Night of the Soul, Little Girl, Daddy’s Gone

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