Producers are like top-coat. Some are subtle — they add a slight effect or texture to the surface. Others are more like stains, providing not only a finishing film, but also a decided tint to the material. Most producers in the latter category are often heavy-handed and awkward; Mitchell Froom is one of the few who provide an exception.
Froom’s sound is instantly recognizable, if difficult to pin down in words. This “solo” effort features collaborations with a gold-star list of Froom collaborators past and present. Produced by Tchad Blake (who costarred with Froom and a couple of Los Lobos in the Latin Playboys), Dopamine also showcases the talents of Soul Coughing’s M. Doughty, Lisa Germano, Suzanne Vega (Froom’s wife), Mark Eitzel, Sheryl Crow, the Attractions’ Bruce and Pete Thomas, and several more. The result is an interesting blend of Froom’s production skills and the styles of each conspirator — while the album could probably pass as a collection of highlights from Froom projects, there is a melodic continuity underneath the songs that binds everything together tightly.
Notable are “The Bunny,” a low slinking tune whose menacing tint contradicts its innocuous title, the ghostly “Overcast” (with Ron Sexsmith) and the swaggering “I’d Better Not,” where Froom’s carefree piano chops meet their match in a sliding double bass. About the only thing better than a Froom-produced album is this.