Posted by: Dave on November 6, 2006 at 11:43 am

by Michael Roberts
Music Director @ 91.5 FM WGRE – Greencastle, IN

Sparklehorse Returns with Soft, Fuzzy Psychedelic Pop

SparklehorseDreamtSparklehorse, aka Mark Linkous, takes his time working on new material; after 4 and 2.5 year absences, Sparklehorse fans have had to wait for a full five years for a new album. The wait caused some doubting among the neo-psych faithful; after all, the past five years have seen the downfall of previous psychedelic poster children like Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips. The announcement of a new album, then, not only created excitement among college music fans, but also anxiety of a possible departure from the subtle pop of It’s a Wonderful Life and Good Morning, Spider.

The new album, Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain, is quintessential Sparklehorse, though, highlighting the quiet and static-filled type of neo-psychedelia that earned the band a cult following throughout the 90s. The quiet murmuring ballads of previous albums find themselves here as well, as do the poignant introspective lyrics. “And the clouds they bled in my head / and autumn rain soaked the dry beds” sings Linkous in “Knives of Summertime”; these are the vivid and surreal images fans have come to expect, again delivered to the same high standards of Sparklehorse’s songcraft.

Not that Dreamt for Light Years shows no evolution for Sparklehorse; on the contrary, the album shows a tendency for Linkous to craft more subtly melodic pop songs. While tracks like “Shade and Honey” and “Morning Hollow” show the old Sparklehorse take on beautiful and lilting ballads, Dreamt for Light Years also includes more upbeat pop melodies that the band had avoided in previous years. Songs like “Ghost in the Sky” and “It’s not so Hard” feature driving guitar riffs and pumping tempos, qualities previously unknown in Sparklehorse’s repertoire. These tracks mark serious progress for Linkous, who is rumored to have sabotaged an early version of the fan-favorite “Happy Man” with a long distortion intro when he heard the song was to be marketed as a pop single.

By far the best example of the more pop-friendly Sparklehorse, though, is the opening track and lead-off single “Don’t Take my Sunshine Away.” In it, Linkous sings his most poignant confession of love to date, describing his love as both beautiful and fading: “your face is like the sun sinking into the ocean / your face is like watching flowers growing in fast motion.” The melody of the song, though, is what makes it such an accessible masterpiece; the layered guitars and sing-songy vocals combine to form a sound that recalls the Byrds at their psychedelic best. With any justice, this will become a keystone single of this fall.

The inspiring romance of “Don’t Take my Sunshine Away” is far from being that of a cheesy pop song, though; as always, Linkous undercuts his pop sensibilities both sonically and lyrically. A distortion solo toward the end of the song contrasts nicely to the catchy melody just as Linkous’ cooings of “sunshine” are tainted by the prospect of it being taken away.

In the end, this contrast of pop and experimental elements is what Sparklehorse fans have come to expect from the neo-psychedelic mainstays. And on Dreamt for Light Years, the band does just that, creating another album of well-crafted and subtle pop gems that is well worth the wait.

Leave a Reply

Enter your email address for weekly updates: 

November 2006
« Oct   Dec »