Danger Mouse + Sparklehorse’s “Dark Night of the Soul”

“The album still manages to leave me with a lasting feeling, even after the last track stops.” -VP

Luke Goddard

out of 10

Dark Night of the Soul
July 12, 2010

A year ago Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and Sparklehouse (Mark Linkous) put their genius and surrealist minds together to create Dark Night of the Soul, a collaboration featuring 13 tracks sung, performed, and felt by a myriad of artists and musicians, including David Lynch, Jason Lytle (of Grandaddy), and The Flaming Lips.

Each track, written, composed, and produced by both Burton and Linkous, sounds like a dark fairytale or a muddy dream, almost ghoulish in its facades. It seems to fit, even more now, with its (official) release—like a small myth in itself.

When the music started playing I was reminded of a time last year when I felt desolate, angry, and confused, but still all the more optimistic. Now with the months in between to let the album settle into the back of my mind, listening to it again I found it refreshing, though with the sunlight bursting into my room it felt a bit comedic against the gloom. The album still manages to leave me with a lasting feeling, even after the last track stops.

Coming out a few months after the suicide of Linkous, Dark Night of the Soul is even more hauntingly beautifully and lasting with its forlorn melodies and orchestral keyboard symphonies, symbolisms, and leery vocals. The stories behind the lives of those at the forefront of it make this album more than just a musical journey. The title itself refers to a phrase (mostly used in Christianity) to describe a phase in one’s spiritual life where they feel loneliness and desolation, a teetering union with God. Linkous definitely had his bouts with many a dark night.

The album is only more significant because it doesn’t lose its dream-like, fabled qualities while adorning that “Major Label” sticker. Tracks like “Revenge” (featuring The Flaming Lips), “Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It)” (featuring David Lynch), “Everytime I’m With You” (featuring Jason Lytle), and “Grim Augury” (featuring Vic Chesnutt) really stand out as the most memorable. Each have that lingering touch of despair blanketed in optimism and playful sadness.

It’s when the album actually tries to rev it up that it sounds a bit off-kilter and the illusion wears off. Tracks like “Little Girl” (featuring Julian Casablancas) and “Daddy’s Gone” (featuring Nina Persson) just sound out of place and confusing, almost as if they wandered off the path of the album’s cohesive theme.

Overall, Dark Night of the Soul has definitely caught my attention (again). While the tracks are a bit despairing, and you may find yourself feeling a little despondent, the continuous listens will prove to open many more unique sounds, instruments, and lyrics. Though if you’re looking for an album that will get your body shaking (in the good way), this one isn’t one for the dance floor. Instead, take it to the sheets and turn off the lights.

–Victoria Phetmisy, July 27th, 2010