There is a power in music. Something inexpressible and emotional. It has the ability to create whole new genres, though at its best perhaps even whole new worlds. Sparklehorse was a fragile melancholic window into Mark Linkous’ soul. There was beauty in his damaged eccentric phrasing and vulnerable wounded vocals, a weary world battered experimental countrified folk that could alternatively be tender or shrill, perhaps even violent. But with his suicide in March we realised that the dark edge was all too real. Held up for years in legal wrangling this is his last album.
It’s curious that someone who made such personal idiosyncratic music, would increasingly over successive albums thrive on collaboration and be willing to step aside vocally for the majority of these tunes. That said many of the vocalists are cyphers. Linkous’ phrasing lives in the majority of them. Except maybe Iggy Pop, who gets the one fuzzy aggressive act, or indie rocker James Mercer (The Shins), and Julian Casablancas (The Strokes) who provides lead vocals on the un Sparklehorse Little Girl. Despite a certain continuity of approach between the likes of Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips) and Jason Lytle (Grandaddy) who both appear and drop the jaw, the Linkous ghost is omnipresent, and more than welcome.
The earlier Sparklehorse albums have a personal bedroom feel, however more recently the Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley) influence has given Linkous a broadened widescreen almost symphonic grandeur. The beats really kick and the electronics are lasting. We’ve got Black Francis (Pixies), Vic Chesnuntt, who also wasn’t long for this world, Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), even Suzanne Vega, but the real unexpected highlight is David Lynch’s vocals. His two songs are earnest sleazy lullabies, yet his nasal Jimmy Stewart drawl is simultaneously spooky, tragic, treated and genus. It’s all wrong. His photos which adorn the inner slick are of course the extremity of noir weirdness, but they highlight the desire of Linkous to extend his music beyond his world into a collective uncontrolled place of darkness and beauty. This is a raw and harrowing album, the hard won glimpses of beauty a fitting way for a great troubled talent to be remembered, mourned, but most of all celebrated.