Context and backdrop could clutter many paragraphs in this instance. Dark Night of the Soul has been floating around the web for at least a year, and an initial physical release contained no music. Mark Linkous and Danger Mouse recorded with a high profile supporting cast featuring David Lynch and many musicians of indie notoriety. The unfortunate passing of two of those involved (Mark Linkous and Vic Chesnutt) provides a hook for any writers feeling lazy. As far as individual preconceptions go, Sparklehorse are among a CD-rack full of bands/solo artists whose body of work is tantamount to my favorite thing since pizza, though last year’s Fennesz collaboration was a little impenetrable. I’m selectively keen on Brian Burton’s work (The Mouse and the Mask and The Grey Album were ace, Broken Bells seemed a little remote while I was busy, and the Gnarls Barkley singles were functional). I demolished the cellophane wondering if this album would be as good as I could kid myself.
Like many “all star” collaboration albums, Dark Night of the Soul leaves the listener feeling that cake has been had and eaten. This is pretty amazing cake though. The influence of the project’s lynchpins is evident throughout, but the music carries cumulative evidence of those involved. Impressively, the whole record sounds corporately professional rather than anodyne, and I suspect props are due to Burton.
“The Man Who Played God” sees suspended static choruses a la Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot combine with metronomic, clockwork perfection. Suzanne Vega fronts with aplomb and puts her setting in the shade. Gruff Rhys contribution “Just War” is like the best moments from Hey Venus! with a sonic backdrop akin to a bar for the suits at the bottom of the ocean. “Revenge” adds a heat lamp tan to Soft Bulletin-level otherworldly sobriety. The moments of weird shim I would hope for from Linkous have an eerie pop beauty best exhibited hitherto on Good Morning Spider. “Daddy’s Gone” has to be the best power ballad propelled by windshield wipers. Nina Persson’s backing vocals are superb.
Where filler may seem likely, enjoyment remains. Iggy Pop declares himself part god and monkey, Lynch turns distorted William Shatner, and intriguing common ground between James Mercer and Jason Lytle is revealed. Dark Night of the Soul seldom resembles a dictatorship karaoke party or a group of people placed awkwardly in the studio. It benefits the reputation of all concerned. The songs praised in this review aren’t necessarily my favorites. Result.
Dangerdoom – The Mouse and the Mask
Sparklehorse – Good Morning Spider
Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump