Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Album Review: Sparklehorse – It’s A Wonderful Life

Sparklehorse’s third album, released in 2001 has a more homogenous feel than previous albums, with fewer of the sudden, jarring noisier tracks.  In fact there is only one track that jars, and it arrives late into the album.  Dog Door features of all people Tom Waits on guest vocals.  The combination of Mark Linkous and Waits should work, on paper anyhow.  In reality it just doesn’t work, coming across as mere pastiche, Waits using an affected falsetto (yes, really) on the track.
But the rest of the album works very well indeed.  The title track sets the tone with Linkous’ creepy, whispered vocals, distant bells and scratchy, muffled instrumentation.  Again this track is a little atypical as the rest of the album is more lush.  Tracks such as Gold Day (which has a ring of Eels about it), the Van Morrison-esque Sea of Teeth, and More Yellow Birds are wonderfully drowsy drift to them.  Darker fare such as Apple Bed (featuring a highly effective backing vocal from Nina Persson of the Cardigans) and piano ballad Eyepennies (featuring PJ Harvey) works equally well.
It’s not all sleepiness, Piano Fire is more uptempo while King of Nails stomps and struts, full of confidence.  Penultimate track Comfort Me returns the album to a ‘normal’, countrified keel.  A wonderful life, indeed.