Brian Joseph Burton, aka Danger Mouse, is one of the best producers alive. Having been involved in some hugely influential projects since his introduction to the mainstream music community in 2004, the producer has made records with some of the greatest talents of our time. His musical style essentially created a musical movement, and his throwback, piano-driven vibes have become a hallmark of modern music. Not only has he worked with all-time greats like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, and U2, but Danger Mouse is also a founding member of both Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells. In honor of Danger Mouse’s 40th birthday, we thought it would be fun to look back at some of the best records that he had a hand in creating.
Without further adieu, enjoy our list of the top seven albums produced by Danger Mouse.
7. Broken Bells – After The Disco (2014)
2014 saw Danger Mouse return to the studio with his Broken Bells partner, James Mercer, who spends most of his time as the front man of The Shins. While their first record, the self-titled Broken Bells, was well received, it was this album that really solidified Broken Bells as a force to be reckoned with. Danger Mouse knows how to evoke the best in any artist, and he takes Mercer’s melancholy vocal delivery and turns it into a disco croon, continuing the Studio-54-worshiping stylistic influence that Daft Punk started with their Random Access Memories.
6. Beck – Modern Guilt (2008)
When Beck needed to hit the re-start button on his ever-changing sound, he turned to Danger Mouse. After the success of 2005’s Guero, Beck followed that up with a relative disappointment in 2006’s The Information. Working with Danger Mouse, Beck released this return-to-form to great acclaim in 2008, with tracks like “Gamma Ray” and “Soul of a Man” showing just how excellent it can be when such a unique songwriter teams up with a studio mastermind like Danger Mouse.
5. DANGERDOOM – The Mouse & The Mask (2005)
There has never been a record like The Mouse & The Mask. A joint effort between Danger Mouse and the elusive wordsmith MF Doom, the album is made as a collaboration with Cartoon Network, and all of the songs feature contributions from the actors who voiced the characters on Adult Swim at the time. Characters from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, and Sealab 2021 all make multiple appearances on the record, alongside Hip Hop heavyweights Talib Kweli, Ghostface Killah, and CeeLo Green. Danger Mouse’s unique, choppy style makes for one of the most-unique albums of the 2000s.
4. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (2006)
Gnarls Barkley hit the scene in 2006 and took the world by storm. By then, Danger Mouse had become a household name, and his partnership with CeeLo continued his take over. Danger Mouse’s music and CeeLo’s vocals made for a glitchy, motown-esque freak-out on St. Elsewhere. “Crazy” was the song of the summer, getting covered countless times by a diverse range of artists like The Raconteurs and Beyoncé. The rest of the record is just as good, and remains one of the most enjoyable debut records of the 2000s. Taking the act on the road, Danger Mouse played keys and acted as band leader while CeeLo acted as front man. The band performed in outrageous full band outfits, famously taking the MTV Video Music Awards stage dressed in Star Wars attire.
3. Gorillaz – Demon Days (2005)
Following Danger Mouse’s introduction to the masses with 2004’s The Grey Album, Damon Albarn tapped Danger Mouse to produce the next Gorillaz album. This pairing resulted in a cultural phenomenon, as “Feel Good, Inc.” and “Dare” would become huge mega-hits on the radio and on MTV. “Dirty Harry” in particular showcases Danger Mouse’s unique style, combining a clavinet loop with synth swirls that are reminiscent of today’s electronic-influenced pop music, with a great guest verse from underground rapper Bootie Brown. This album was like a window into the future, and the future looked very bright thanks to Danger Mouse.
2. The Black Keys – Brothers (2010)
Brothers is a classic album. Danger Mouse’s fuzz-heavy, throwback vibes match up perfectly with The Black Keys’ bluesy Nashville sound, and the combination resulted in a Grammy for Best Rock Album. The record marks The Black Keys’ first time including studio musicians on their record, as Danger Mouse encouraged Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney to add bass and keyboard to their sound for the first time in their existence. The record ended up chock-full of great songs like “Tighten Up”, “Next Girl” and “Howlin’ For You”, and the production is absolutely sparkling. Danger Mouse ended up winning the Best Producer (Non-Classical) award at the Grammy Awards for his work on Brothers, marking his major contribution to this fantastic crossover pop record.
1. Danger Mouse – The Grey Album
The Grey Album was THE album of 2004. You couldn’t find it in a record store, or online at the iTunes store. The music was never played on the radio. Generally, it wasn’t available for consumption besides on download sites like Limewire or Kaazaa. That’s because this album is the absolute holy grail of mashups. Danger Mouse took The Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s magnum opus, The Black Album, and combined them into one brilliant listening experience. Using the White Album as a basis for the album’s beats, Danger Mouse chopped up the classic Beatles record to make Jay-Z’s Black Album a capella vocals fit perfectly.
What resulted was a fresh take on both albums, and essentially the creation of a new genre of music, at least in the ears of the music-listening public. Jay-Z is most famous for his braggadocio, and this album seemed to offset his attitude with a softer, acoustic sound that really worked with the reflective vibe of The Black Album. The Grey Album caused a huge uproar in the music community, as it received huge critical acclaim, which then resulted in a very public legal skirmish with EMI, who owns The Beatles’ catalog. While The Grey Album might have lost the battle in the end, Danger Mouse won the war, as he went on to become one of the music business’ most celebrated producers. This was Danger Mouse’s first true album, and the groundbreaking work paved the way for his entire career.
Happy Birthday Danger Mouse!