Every producer has to make at least one album under his or her own name, and Mitchell Froom — who plays keyboards and has made a lot more music in the Latin Playboys — got started early. The Key of Cool is “source music” for the X-rated science fiction film Café Flesh. The atmospheric, mostly synthesized song-structured instrumentals (some with vocals by Jerry Stahl, the Permanent Midnight author who co-wrote the screenplay) offers slight entertainment for sophisticates.
Dopamine is a far more ambitious effort in which the well-established veteran wrote a dozen pieces of music and then had such production clients as Los Lobos, Suzanne Vega (to whom he was married), Ron Sexsmith, Miho Hatori of Cibo Matto, Mark Eitzel and — lo and behold — Jerry Stahl provide the lyrics and melodies. The results are stylish and distinctively produced — that cavernous sour snare is Froom’s strongest signature (and worst habit) as a producer — in ways that the artists might not have presented themselves on their own records. Standouts are Soul Coughing leader M. Doughty’s archly weird “The Bunny,” Ron Sexsmith’s languorously echoing “Overcast” and Stahl’s dramatic “Permanent Midnight.” Lisa Germano (“Kitsum”) turns in a fine performance, as does Eitzel (“Watery Eyes”), but Sheryl Crow (“Monkey Mind”) sounds like she accidentally wandered in to the wrong session and is being made fun of.