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Dark Night of the Soul Import
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Dark Night Of The Soul is an album by audio auteur Danger Mouse and the already much-missed Sparklehorse. The record sees the pair joined by the following remarkable roll call of guests: The Flaming Lips, Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), Jason Lytle (Grandaddy), Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), Black Francis (The Pixies), Iggy Pop, David Lynch, James Mercer (The Shins/Broken Bells), Nina Persson (The Cardigans), Suzanne Vega and Vic Chesnutt. Rumors of this mysterious collaborative project began to circulate in early 2009 sparking widespread anticipation and excitement. Now, following months of talks, Danger Mouse and EMI are excited and proud to announce that Dark Night Of The Soul will be released worldwide in July. While this beautiful, haunting record being made widely and legitimately available is undoubtedly a cause for celebration, the news is shadowed by sadness following the recent passing of Mark Linkous, who released and performed under the Sparklehorse pseudonym.
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But before he passed away, Linkous finished one last collaboration with Danger Mouse, appropriately entitled "Dark Night of the Soul." Lots of spacefuzz rock'n'roll and colorful psychedelic pop, with countless guest singers/musicians/composers adding their own unique stylings to the music. And sadly, you can hear some foreshading of Linkous' loss in there.
Every song has guest vocalists who also helped produce and composing their songs. It begins with the warm, liquid psychedelica of "Revenge," in which Wayne Coyne croons sadly, "In my mind/I have shot you and stabbed you through your heart/I just didn't understand/The ricochet is the second part..."
Then it switches to the shimmering, glitchy "Just War" with Gruff Rhys, and the fluttering folk-rock of "Jaykub" with Jason Lytle. After those through songs, there's a brief interlude of pure rock'n'roll -- Julian Casablancas slurs through the lean "Little Girl," Black Francis drawls through the half-baked"Angel's Harp," and Iggy Pop... well, he burns through a fiery expanse of dark hard-rock. What else?
Then things sink back into the spacefuzz again, with James Mercer, Jason Lytle, Vic Chestnutt, David Lynch, Suzanne Vega and Nina Persson all contributing. There's the ethereal electronic "Star Eyes (I Can Catch It)," the twinkly chaotic "Insane Lullaby," the bluesy "Daddy's Gone" and "The Man Who Played God," the melancholy folkpop of "Everytime I'm With You," and with bluesy streamers of synth and mats of grimy guitar in the last two songs.
The biggest problem with "Dark Night of the Soul" is that it sounds like too many different artists -- it often sounds more like a compilation of these various people than a unified album. That said, the only song I didn't like was "Angel's Harps," which just sounded half-baked. The rest of the songs are melancholy, tinged with hopelessness and sadness.
The softer songs are full of different instrumentations -- spacey synth that twinkles, shimmers and glitches, xylophones, soft strings, fuzzy guitars and murmuring vocals. The harder, rockier songs have traces of those things, but they rely more on driving guitar and raw blasts of bass -- a particular highlight is Iggy Pop's song, which starts off as a simple hard-rock song, but blossoms with streams of glittering synth and blooming whorls of guitar.
The guest vocalists also do brilliant jobs -- Wayne Coyne, Jason Lytle and Jason Mercer are particular highlights, but all of them are expertly woven into their music. And the lyrics are simply beautiful -- lots of striking imagery ("But dreams float up/from fishers in the flood"), hopelessness ("The last survivor crawling through the dust/There is just war/A contribution till humankind/Turns to rust") and general sadness ("I woke up and all my yesterdays were gone").
Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse crafted a beautiful, saddening collection of songs that turned out to be Linkous' last work -- I wasn't crazy about Black Francis' song, but all the rest are lovely.
The album opens with "Revenge" featuring Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, a slow groove that sets the mood for what I can only describe as the first act of the record. Often seen as one of the few bands comparable to Flaming Lips, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals follows "Revenge" with "Just War" that lifts the mood slightly while maintaining the slower tempo of its predecessor. Jason Lytle of Grandaddy finishes this first act with "Jaykub" which maintains the dreamy sonic wavering heard on various instruments throughout the start of the album, but once again adds some light to the darkened approach to this Dark Night of Soul.
With the first three tracks flowing so perfectly together, a simple three hits of the snare drum announce a new act, led by The Strokes' Julian Casablancas and the incredibly Strokes-like single "Little Girl." By the time Casablancas' track concludes, it is clear each artist was given a great deal of creative freedom with their collaborative efforts. Any doubts are left behind after Black Francis and Iggy Pop follow Casablancas with tracks that could easily be mistaken for lost tracks by their own respective bands.
Although a 100-page book of photographs by David Lynch accompanies the record, his presence isn't felt in the music until halfway through when the shimmering "Star Eyes (I Can't Catch It)" enters. His compositions play very much like his movies, eerie and intriguing. "Star Eyes" and the closing track "Dark Night of the Soul" may be his only musical contributions, but their artistic and expressive bounds turn from brilliant collaboration to fitting memorial for a talent that took himself from this world far too early. For those of you who have been waiting anxiously for this album to hit the shelves, Dark Night of Soul is a gem worth the delay.
Similar Artists: Pavement, Tom Waits
Track Suggestion: "Star Eyes (I Can't Catch It)"