It’s perhaps not surprising that a performer as iconoclastic as Karen O might have difficulty finding her footing in the current music industry. All sharp edges at a time when the strong preference is for sleek, prefab figures, the frontwoman of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs has taken little stabs at asserting herself in recent years, but she also seems at best a ghostly presence. It’s been about five years since her solo debut, Crush Songs, and a year longer since the last full-length from her band (2013’s Mosquito, which, it must be conceded, is dreadful). At that typed, her latest songs, made in collaboration with Danger Mouse, suggest that she’s found a way to repurpose her creative voice into an intoxicating, shimmering beacon. If no one chooses to follow it, then they’re the fools.
The newest single, “Turn the Light” is glamorous disco of a dying planet. O’s vocals have their customary acidic tang, but they sound freshened up by the contrast with the layered electronics of the music. Much as I like a lot of the material from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I am sometimes left a little perturbed by an aggression that strikes me as somewhat feigned, as an example of a band — and O in particular — simply trying too hard. “Turn the Light” is instead a performer at ease, satisfied and confident in her ability to command a song, an album, a stage. In that, it’s quietly thrilling.