Do you like fairy cakes and talking animals? Precious melodies and lush string arrangements? Skewed circus waltzes and tremulous keyboards? Joker's Daughter, the new collaboration between songwriter Helena Costas and Danger Mouse, is not for the hard-bitten cynics among us. Only dewy-eyed romantics need enter here.
Not that there aren't pleasures to be had. The Last Laugh is damned near nothing but pleasures. Costas' clear voice, folky here, blues swaggering there, mother-in-the-other-room-humming-lullabies there, is a sybarite's silk pillow, edgeless, soft and comforting. Danger Mouse has wrapped this languid, lucid instrument in the gentlest of swaddlings, baroque rushes of strings, jaunty jangling guitars and, to keep everyone awake, percolating electronic cadences. Listening is like falling into a pile of feathers, sensual, enveloping, but ultimately insubstantial.
Costas sounds best when she sounds earthiest, in the breezy, Lou Rhodes-ish blues of "Worm's Head" and "JD Folk Blues," or in the Mediterranean-scented opening to "Jessie the Goat." Elsewhere, she'll remind you of Vashti Bunyan circa Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind, her sweetness overwhelmed by ornate, baroque arrangements. There's a fey, fleeting humor in the manic piano, whistles and claps of "The Goblin Running," but what can you say to a woman who can sing, straight-faced, "thought I saw a dragonfly smile at me"? That you, she, Danger Mouse, a string orchestra and a herd of talking animals all live happily ever after?
Standout Tracks: "Worm's Head", "Lucid", "The Goblin Running". JENNIFER KELLY