Once upon a time, there was Karen O, frontwoman for the early 2000s rock band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. There was also hip-hop artist turned music producer Danger Mouse. One day, they decided to unite their respective powers to gift humanity the ultimate musical collaboration of 2019 (thus far): Lux Prima.
Lux Prima, at its core, is a story. Together, Karen O and Danger Mouse weave together dreams, presenting an album which is fluid, authentic and unbound by any limitations. The nine-track album is characterized by seamless transitions and natural progressions.
The title track “Lux Prima” opens softly, slowly warming up like the introduction to a good book, or drowsily climbing from slumber on a Sunday morning. The track is long, nearing eight minutes, but it never feels overdone. The surreal echoes of the “Lux Prima” envelope the listener like a warm breeze –– all at once sad, comforting and hopeful. Vocals are minimal for the majority of the song, instead emphasizing the dreamlike atmosphere of the track. One feels almost as if they’re drifting aimlessly along a lazy river.
Then, Karen O and Danger Mouse take the audience for an unexpected but very welcome spin. As the track nears on minute three, where most songs would usually come to an end, the electronic ambiance fades out, replaced by steady drum beat. It’s as if O and Danger Mouse have shifted gears, or flipped on a new track. It is a song hidden within a song — a plot twist that could rival the best of ABC’s Thursday night television lineup. Then, by the six-minute mark the song abruptly transitions back to the same soft sound waves of the introduction, but rather than falling to an end the track ramps up for the rest of this powerhouse album.
The following tracks “Ministry” and “Turn the Light” are good, but largely unremarkable on their own. Rather, they are more important in the context of the album, building the momentum to the album’s climax: “Woman” and “Redeemer.”
“Woman” is the highlight of the album –– and the song is everything it should be with a name like that. Powerful, strong and dominant, O comes roaring in with a distinct surge of energy. The song feels like an assertion of her identity and womanhood. It’s the type of unapologetic, sassy, foot-tapping song that you can’t help but rock out to. “Woman” easily steals the thunder of the album. And unlike the beginning of the album, the song is more grounded, more human. “Redeemer” continues the momentum of “Woman,” still powerful but grittier. It feels as if Karen O and Danger Mouse have awoken both themselves and the listener from the distant dreams of the opening “Lux Prima.”
The album slowly winds down from its climax of “Woman” and “Redeemer,” symbolic of how the story woven together by Karen O and Danger House is slowly coming to an end. “Leopard’s Tongue” is notable for the subtle, exotic tone of the bass beat (vaguely reminiscent of Mayssa Karaa’s “White Rabbit”). “Nox Lumina” rounds out the album as an appropriate end to this refreshingly unusual story. Starting soft and then growing fuller, the ending track is noticeably more somber, and just a touch ominous.
Karen O and Danger Mouse’s album collaboration is fantastic not because the songs are engaging (which they are) or for good lyrics (all together haunting, energetic and hypnotizing), but because the album seemingly breaks all the rules. Together, these two artists found a way to find some much desired originality without compromising their authenticity. Together, Karen O and Danger Mouse created something new, beautiful and unexpected. The non-traditional structure of tracks like “Lux Prima” and “Nox Lumina” keeps the listener on their toes, eradicating the boredom accompanied by the lackluster effect of drawn-out albums. Meanwhile the story-arc design of the album keeps the music grounded amidst the rabbit-hole of Karen O’s enchanting vocals. Simply put, Lux Prima is invigorating for those weary of all things cookie-cutter.
This week, if the daily routine has you stuck in a frustrating copycat of Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day,” or if you’re a music snob looking for some excitement, take a listen to Lux Prima.