Lux Prima

Danger Mouse / Karen O

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Lux Prima Review

by Heather Phares

With the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and on her own, Karen O proved herself one of the most powerful voices of the 2000s -- and one that went missing for most of the 2010s. While she took some well-deserved time to raise her child and pursue other projects, whenever she resurfaced, as on the 2017 Daniele Luppi and Parquet Courts collaboration Milano, it was a reminder of just how much she was missed. On her first album since 2014's Crush Songs, O draws on the different aspects of her previous work without repeating herself, blending together thoughtful ballads and the occasional fiery rock song with soundtrack-worthy atmospheres. Her partner in this balancing act is Danger Mouse, whose lush, funky production harks back to his work with Gnarls Barkley; "Drown," with its layered strings, electric piano and mellow acoustic strumming, is an archetypal example of his sound. Together, the pair sets a dramatic, mysterious, and strangely luxurious mood that fits Lux Prima's musings on birth and rebirth. They begin the album with its most ambitious track: A nine-minute, four-part suite, "Lux Prima" swirls eerie synth passages, symphonic grandeur, and slinky R&B together with an unhurried mystique. It's an impressive, somewhat daunting prologue that hints at just how much ground Karen O and Danger Mouse cover on the album, and how well they complement each other. Some of her previous solo work was so sparse-sounding that it didn't take full advantage of her presence as a singer, but his full-bodied style holds its own with her vocals. Likewise, O's vivid songwriting gives Danger Mouse plenty of fodder for his evocative approach on tracks like "Ministry of Love," which magnifies the introspective bent of her solo work into a late-night song of devotion. Elsewhere, she revels in the freedom that Lux Prima affords her, moving from the slow-motion disco shimmy of "Turn the Light" to the collage of Motown stomp and dreamy girl group pop that make up "Woman." When she taps into the rock power that made her a star nearly 20 years before Lux Prima, she doesn't try to recapture the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' glory days; "Redeemer" and "Leopard's Tongue" are sultry instead of explosive. When "Nox Lumina" closes the album by bringing it full circle, it reaffirms that Lux Prima is the sophisticated, sonically adventurous album Karen O deserves to make at this point in her career.

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