Monday, August 2, 2010

Sparkly Night Of The Soul

Like a typical suburban family’s home, Dark Night of the Soul is a collaboration on multiple levels. First off, (the late) indie ubermensch Mark Linkous lays down track after track of expertly chiseled musicianship for pro producer Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley fame) to nail home with his ultra-sensitive microphones. Then, a star-studded cast of frontmen and -women that makes indie palms worldwide palpitate provides vocals and some degree of artistic vision. Like Mexican food, the result is that each variation of the above has its own flavor even though the fundamental ingredients are eerily similar.

Despite cameos from stars ranging from the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas to Iggy Pop, the album’s focal point remains the canvas laid down and smoothed out by Linkous and Mouse. Fashioning a standalone instrument out of the art of production, Mouse is at his finest. And Linkous’s expert craftsmanship is brilliant – that is to say, nothing short of his status quo.

A complete dissection of this album and its creation process may seem dated to fans, however, seeing as the album was unofficially released more than a year ago – unofficially, that is, because of copyright violation. In an eff-the-system act in the name of free artistry, Linkous and Mouse marketed and sold an intricate, David Lynch-illustrated book along with a blank CD-R, coyly and not-so-subtly suggesting that listeners torrent it themselves. Problem solved. Well, now that the copywrongs have been righted, the album can see the Official Light of Day (even though anyone interested in this album has already heard it).

Linkous was best known for his band Sparklehorse. His band’s discography is defined by the delicate boundary between (and sometimes blurring of) gloom and beauty. Linkous’s music had a fragile magnificence that was unparalleled. In light of his suicide in March, the fragility has become all too apparent. But Dark Night of the Soul remains a beautiful piece of artwork that elicits all the right emotions at all the right times.

-Joe Pinsker

Joe's Grade: A-

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