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Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse: The Dark Night of the Soul

by on August 10, 2010


Mr. Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, has had a past two years that were, to say the least, busy. He collaborated with the The Black Keys, the Shortwave Set, Martina-Topley Bird and Beck in 2008, formed the band Joker’s Daughter in 2009, and in 2010 collaborated with the Black Keys again as well as releasing an album with James Mercer under the name Broken Bells. And now, this talented multi-instrumentalist is back, this time collaborating with rock duo Sparklehorse to produce interesting, and at times beautiful, Dark Night of the Soul.

class=”MsoNormal”>The album was originally set to be released in 2007, but due to disputes with EMI, the album was “lost”. It was released as a CD last May, but was officially released digitally on July 12. This CD is interesting, because, for this album, Mark Linkous took a spot on the sidelines. He and Danger Mouse co-wrote every song, and gave them to eleven different artists to perform. These artists include James Mercer, Julian Casablancas, and Iggy Pop to name a few. Sadly, Mark Linkous passed away before the album was officially released.

The album is split into very distinct sections, the first of which opens with “Revenge,” sung by Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. Listening to the robot voice harmonizing Coyne, the strings, and the heavily reverberated vocals, this song could easily be mistaken for a laid-back Flaming Lips song. The laid-back part, of course, coming from Danger Mouse. His influence is incredibly clear throughout these first four songs. Songs like “Jaykub” and “Little Girl” each have the simple, yet perfect groove that only Danger Mouse could deliver. The swirling keyboards and soft drums are complemented by the smooth vocals and light harmonization around them. However, none of these songs are truly memorable. They are catchy and fun at times, but are not great. The real stand-out on this section is “Just War”. Sung by Gruff Rhys, the song opens with a deceivingly beautiful piano intro, only to be drowned out by traffic noises that lead into the synthetic groove of the song. The happiness of the music is in wonderful contrast to the eeriness of its lyrics, and the chorus is just as wonderfully pieced together to pull the listener in.

The next section consists of two songs, “Angel’s Harp” and “Pain”. Sung by Black Francis and Iggy Pop, respectively, these two songs do not seem to fit in to the feel that Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse had laid out for the listener in the first section. These are driven, hard-rock tunes that are uninteresting and repetitive. One can understand Mark Linkous’ thought process here, however. He has always wanted to sound different and do the unexpected, but placing two heavy songs in between dreamy textures seemed to be the wrong choice.

As for the rest of the album, it goes through psychedellia, (“Star Eyes”, “Everytime I’m With You”), soft pop, (“Daddy’s Gone”, “The Man Who Played God”), and film-noir style creepiness, (“Grim Augury”, “Dark Night of the Soul”). Out of these, the majority of the songs are very average. They are good and fun to listen to, but there is nothing special about songs like “The Man Who Played God,” which again uses soft harmonization to tell a somewhat non-sensical story. The title track, surprisingly, does not end the album with a bang, as would feel appropriate. Instead, it lulls the listener into its heavily echoed vocals and grainy sounding piano. There are, however, two songs out of these that are great. “Insane Lullaby”, sung by James Mercer, sounds exactly like what it should: a crazy lullaby. It is a noisy, yet beautiful song that only sounds prettier once the violins lead into a gorgeous bridge. “Daddy’s Gone”, sung by Nina Persson, again uses violins to its advantage. They highlight chorus just perfectly for the song to retain its soft, yet inspirational, feel.

For an album on which eleven different artists perform, the Dark Night of the Soul sounds wonderfully cohesive (save, of course, “Angel’s Harp” and “Pain”). Danger Mouse retains his laid-back groove just as well as Mark Linkous retains his rock roots. It can be great, but at times uninteresting, but it will be remembered as Mark Linkous’ last work, and while not his best, another work for Brian Burton to add to his impressive portfolio.


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