The first time I actually listened to DangerMouse was on the Broken Bells song ‘The High Road’. I almost remember the moment – idly listening while doing work in the school’s radio department computer labs, and then kind of mentally pulling over for the last few minutes of the song “it’s too late to change your mind” … A kind of choral led by The Shins’ James Mercer’s voice and hand claps that made me stop the ‘work’ I was doing to find out who or what Broken Bells was.
Turns out not only was producer, Brian Joseph Burton, aka DangerMouse, part of the two-man supergroup with The Shins’ lead singer, he was also part of an even super-er group, Gnarls Barkely, with Cee-Lo Green and I had been listening to his work more than I knew. The proverbial deal was sealed though, with his 2004’s The Grey Album – a mash-up of songs from Jay-Z’s Black Album and The Beatles’ The White Album.
I know right? He’s produced for Beck, The Black Keyes and Gorillaz; released albums featuring Jack White and Julian Casablancas and produced two of my favorite albums this year: Norah Jones’ Little Broken Hearts and Los Angeles band, Electric Guest’s, Mondo. Sheesh! No wonder he’s been called everything from most influential person to producer of the decade because he has literally been the sound of (cool) music for a long time.
So in honor of this and for the sake of making a great playlist, here’s a ride through some of his impressive discography – it starts with the unrelenting piano from one his first releases with rapper, Jemini – along the way there are some dramatic strings, some of his signature rolling, bumbling bass and beats until it all quiets down with a song from Ms Jones at the end. It’s a really great thing when a producer can have a real stamp on everything they’re involved in without getting in the way of an artist’s sound and that’s exactly what DangerMouse does. And doesn’t that make you feel hopeful? That as long as there is DangerMouse, there is going to be good music.