Lux Prima fuses Karen O's top-notch voice with Danger Mouse's trap music
Whenever Karen Orzolek, famously known as Karen O, announces that she is going to release new material, there is always something to look forward to. The frontwoman of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs always finds new ways to reinvent her sound.
On her new project, Lux Prima, with Brian Burton, the two artists find interesting ways to tap into each other’s strengths. The result is a dream pop album that one might not expect from a punk rock frontwoman and a hip-hop producer. Lux Prima takes listeners on a journey that proves to be an unexpected success of artists coming from different worlds.
The factor that contributes to the album’s successful sound is Karen O herself. She has a very distinct style of singing that is reminiscent of Patti Smith; however, on tracks like “Ministry,” her singing is extremely soft. The results are lullaby-like tracks that are accompanied by trap instrumentation from Burton, also known as Danger Mouse.
On tracks like “Turn the Light” and “Woman,” she taps into her alternative rock roots, which are a reminder of the New York City sound found in the 1980s, but with a modern take.
Danger Mouse's contributions also play a huge role in the album’s sound. Throughout the record, the many themes explored are able to be cohesively ordered due to the influences brought by the acclaimed producer.
The album includes very grand productions of heavenly sounding synths and vocal harmonies. These production choices can be heard complementing Karen O’s voice in the best way possible. The mixture of the alternative rock singing and hip-hop-influenced production is able to produce a raw sound that still feels polished.
The best example can be found on “Redeemer,” with funk-influenced guitar licks and her singing drenched in reverb.
On Lux Prima, one can even see a change of lyrical direction from Karen O. Instead of the typical heartbreak one expects from a Yeah Yeah Yeahs track, she is able to provide a variety of vague lyricism that paints a familiar picture of themes found typically in her previous works.
The song that best demonstrates this, “Reveries,” provides simple but extremely effective lyricism of daydreams that evolve into mental journeys. This is reflected by the purposeful lo-fi production approach that helps it stand out on an album filled with lush production.
The track that best embodies the strongest aspects of the album is “Leopard’s Tongue.” The track benefits from Karen O’s memorable lyricism, along with a catchy hook and fantastic vocal harmonies. This track also stands out for some of the same reasons as “Reveries,” as it is stylistically very different from most of the tracks found on the album. “Leopard’s Tongue” is accompanied by an uplifting beat that immediately catches any listener’s attention.
Along with the fantastic production, it is easy to see that Karen O is able to freely express herself. As the track continues, the instrumentation becomes more and more layered, featuring piano and even some horns. As the track ends, it fades into a beautiful synth line that echoes the sound of the entire record.
Karen O and Danger Mouse have been able to successfully merge genres in a way that is surprising, given their different musical backgrounds. Her previous projects had ideas scattered throughout that seemed to be incomplete, but that isn’t the case on Lux Prima.
With the help of Danger Mouse, Karen O is able to fully flesh out ideas that greatly benefit from a good producer. The album includes simple concepts accompanied by spacious production techniques and instrumentation, which help create a cohesive effort that is extremely enjoyable.
In this record, the two artists find common ground but also help each other grow artistically.