Tag Archives: Cee-Lo Green

The 10 Most Important Artists of the Last Decade – 5. Danger Mouse

Like Phil Spector, George Martin, and Brian Eno, Danger Mouse has elevated into a realm that few producers have.  He’s created a unique sound for different artists and bands, while managing to become a star in his own right.  Dabbling in indie rock, hip-hop, and soul-pop, Danger Mouse has constantly pushed the boundaries of what modern can sound like.

In the past decade, he’s produced and worked with such artists as the Black Keys, Beck, Gorillaz, James Mercer of the Shins, and of course Gnarls Barkley, his own band with Cee Lo Green.  And none of these projects have sounded alike, partly because Danger Mouse doesn’t force his own philosophy and ideals onto his collaborators.  Rather he finds a particular sound that suits the artist while still blending his own dark soul-pop.  Unlike other super producers, Danger Mouse creates a sound that is dense and atmospheric, while still being sparse.  Even without Cee Lo’s paranoid lyrics, “Crazy” manages to be dark and foreboding with little instrumentation.

Danger Mouse first gained attention with the The Grey Album (the mash-up between Jay-Z’s Black Album and The Beatles’ White Album).  It should have been a novelty item – let’s face it most of these projects are.  Yet, there is a respect and knowledge for both artists that very of these project have.  “99 Problems” is given more bite when the screaming guitars and bounding drums of “Helter Sketler” teeter out of control underneath the lyrical rage of Jay-Z.  “Moment of Clarity” is even more poignant when it is driven by the opening riff of “Happiness is a Warm Gun”.

While Gnarls Barkley is mostly known for their monster hit “Crazy” (which Rolling Stone named the best song of the decade) the rest of St. Elsewhere is a minor masterpiece of funk, soul-pop, indie rock, and general weirdness. On the surface, Cee Lo’s soulful voice is the driving force behind the album , particularly on “Crazy” where comes off as both sympathetic and slightly insane. But the combination is deceiving it’s not really a dance-album – the production is too sparse for that.  And it’s not exactly indie-rock either.  Rather Gnarls Barkley is the sound of two men who are not bound by any particular genre – and simply creating music they like.

And that seems to be Danger Mouse’s credo.

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Best Of The Year

Jesus, it’s been a while hasn’t it?  Sorry for the lack of updates, I’ve been kind of experiencing a bit of writer’s block lately.  Not sure why.  But since we’re at the end of the year, I thought I’d give out my picks for the best records of the year.  And here we go!  (Note: Re-issues, don’t count otherwise I would have had Dylan and Springsteen on my list.)

 

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

“I’m living in the 21st century, doing something mean to it, do it better than anybody you ever seen do it,” He declares on “Power”.  Sure he might be boasting, but when you deliver songs like “Runaway” with its haunting piano there’s a reason to.   Sonically, the songs are all over the place – “All of the Lights” is rap/pop at its best, then there’s the slow-stoner burn of “Gorgeous” complete with a distorted guitars, and a song that uses a choir chanting endlessly in the background, plus a King Crimson sample should not work, but somehow “Power” does just that.  Kanye West may be everyone’s favorite whipping boy at the moment, but he’s moved onto the future and everybody has to play catch up.  As he says in “Monster”: “I’m living the future so the presence is my past.  My presence is a present kiss my ass.”

The New Pornographers – Together


I admit I was actually bored by the NP’s last album, Challengers. It seemed to be lacking something, and I could never pin it down.  Luckily, the band probably had the same idea, and discovered their love for power-pop with Together, while adding some new ideas into the mix with the Black Sabbath-esque riff of “Your Hands (Together)”.   The hooks are there again, and the harmonies between Carl Newman and Neko Case never sounded sweeter as they do on songs such as “Silver Jenny Dollar” and “Moves”.

Elvis Costello – National Ransom


While the last few efforts by Costello have been of high quality (Momufuku, Secret Profane & Sugarcane) with National Ransom, Costello digs deep and delivers one of his best albums in years.  Costello ever being the musical nerd (and this is a good thing) like Dylan in recent years draws on pre-rock influences – “My Lovely Jezebel” sounds it was written in the mid west, circa the late 1890s.  Bluegrass also seems to be an influence on many of the songs as well particularly “Dr. Watson, I Presume”.   Even the straight-up rock of the title track has an old-time feel to it.  Costello may not rock like he used during the hey-day of the Attractions, but with albums such as National Ransom it’s clear he hasn’t entirely mellowed out.

Matt & Kim – Sidewalks


My girlfriend introduced me to Matt & Kim last year and at first I was not sure what to make of them.  Was this mix of dance/punk serious or were they being ironic?  I couldn’t tell despite liking some of their songs.   But with this year’s Sidewalks, Matt & Kim have proved one thing: it’s okay to have poppy songs once in a while.  Just make sure it’s covered in enough noise and irony so that that the hipsters don’t cry “Sell outs!”

Cee-Lo Green: The Lady Killer


Leave it to Cee-Lo to bring the old school R&B sound back, with a twist.  “Fuck You” might be the album’s stand-out and quite possibly the best song of the year, but “Bright Lights, Bigger City” recalls 70s disco records.  Throughout the album, Cee-lo’s voice stands out, not only because he is one of the few male stars that can actually sing, but he has conviction.  Cee-Lo is believable in his updating of Motown, and that’s what makes it a success.

 

(Check tomorrow for best movies.  I know this is a music blog, but it’s the end of the year.)

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The Absurd Review – Kid Cudi -Man on the Moon II – The Legend of Mr. Rager

Kid Cudi’s sophomore effort, Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager plays like a hip-hop version of In Utero – an artist gets big and decides that he doesn’t like what he’s seen.  Since the release of Man on the Moon last year, Cudi developed a coke habit, eventually getting arrested this past summer.

There is no boasting about how great Cudi’s life was a coke-head (even though much of the album sounds like a hip-hop version of Dark Side of the Moon, especially Marijuana which has a Gilmour-like solo throughout).  Cudi not only loves the darkness, he “wants to marry it.”  “It is my cloak.  It is my shield.  It is my cape,” He declares in “Maniac”  a haunting track featuring indie singer Saint Vincent.  Elsewhere, “Wild’n Cuz I’m Young” sounds like it was recorded in a dark basement or underground.  If this is what Cudi meant by marrying the darkness, he found it in this song.  Unfortunately, what would have other-wise been an album highlight is marred by the use of Autotune.  “Marijuana”

“Erase Me” finds Cudi taking on arena rock – it’s even got a softer verse and loud chorus which proves that Cudi seems to have a a better understanding of a rock song than Lil Wayne.  Interestingly on the song where he actually does sing, he ditches the Autotune.  The only problem with the song, is the inclusion of the usually reliable Kanye West, who seems sapped of his energy and his muse on his verse.

Some reviews have stated that this album is over indulgent but the blend of spaced-out rock and hip-hop elevates Man on the Moon II above Cudi’s indulgences and self-loathing.  But the main flaw of the album isn’t Cudi using the album as catharsis, it’s that it doesn’t seem convincing. Cudi seems to like the darkness too much or is stoned too much to really break out and exorcise his demons.  If only his delivery matched the music and the lyrics, Man on the Moon II could be hip-hop’s version of In Utero or Plastic Ono Band. As it is though, it’s an impressive effort from an emerging artist.

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