Sympathetic Stupid

Friday, September 29, 2006

All the Sparkly Horses

I never got into Sparklehorse (Mark Linkous) yet, but apparently now is the time. He just released Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain and I just got a spiffy new pair of cans (the Sennheiser HD595 as recommended by James and HeadRoom).

Good timing, too, cause this album's about simple tones played well, carried by slow tempos and sweet sound pictures rather than hooky riffs and big soft-loud builds. The tempos and full landscape are similar to what I've heard of Okay, though the vocals are less rattling - Mountains especially is similar to Marty's layered, slightly messy production. Or like an Eels album from the great period before E got happy, but without the guitar driven crowd-pleasers. It's Not So Hard approaches this, but Steven Drozd's in-your-face drums and Dave Fridmann's feedback blanket bury the Beatle-esque refrain "come on/come on/come on/it's not so hard", and the guitar part lacks the mass consumption hooks.

The album has plenty of guests. Drozd, of The Flaming Lips, does some drumming. His colleague Fridmann plays some bass. Producer of the year Dangermouse works some knobs. Joan (as Policewoman) Wasser and Tom Waits apparently give violin and piano to Morning Hollow. But they're unobtrusive contributions rather than "Drum Solo!" guest spots.

My favourite track, at this point, is Shade and Honey, a Linkous piece from top to toe. It's the first point on the album where we hear his voice unadorned by effects, gently singing us into a sunny country landscape over a couple of simple guitars, before just a taste of bittersweet snare-driven intensity under the held "honey", disappearing quickly into the blue sky. Eventually, he's unobtrusively joined by strings, a keyboard twist, tiny xylophoney highlights. It's the balance of the track which is most impressive; the melding of the elements into a seamless whole, reward multiplying on each listen. It's an anthem that no-one needs to shout out.

[MP3 - 5.3MB] Sparklehorse - Shade and Honey

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