Most groups have a leader or focal point. He or she writes most, if not all, of the songs and handles the vocals. Other "so-called" groups are actually one person recording largely on their own. Sparklehorse, led by singer and multi-instrumentalist Mark Linkous, is one of those, recording at his home studio (either on his farm in rural Virginia or on a North Carolina mountain top).
Sparklehorse's '95 debut, "Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot" was a modest success, mainly on college radio. But while on tour in London (opening for Radiohead), Linkous overdosed on alcohol, Valium and antidepressants and who knows what else (like those three weren't enough). He passed out in his hotel room and remained unconscious with his legs pinned beneath him for almost fourteen hours. That caused a buildup of potassium which was released when he was moved. As a result, Linkous' heart stopped for two to three minutes. He was hospitalized for weeks (nearly losing both legs), enduring numerous painful surgeries.
Critics mistakenly speculated that the somber tone of '99 release, "Good Morning Spider" was inspired by Linkous' near death experience. Nice theory, but much of the material was written prior to the incident. However, one song "St Mary" was dedicated to the nurses at the Paddington hospital where Linkous recuperated.
"It's A Wonderful Life" with contributions from Tom Waits and PJ Harvey arrived in '01. Side projects and health issues kept Sparklehorse sidelined until Linkous collaborated with DJ Danger Mouse, and other musicians, for the '06 album, "Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain."
Still struggling with health issues and physical disabilities, Linkous gave up the battle in '10. "It is with great sadness that we share the news that our dear friend and family member Mark Linkous took his own life today," said a 3/7/2010 family statement. "We are thankful for his time with us and will hold him forever in our hearts."
1998 Good Morning Spider
2001 It's A Wonderful Life
2006 Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain
2009 Dark Night of the Soul
1996 Chords I've Known
2000 Distorted Ghost
2009 In The Fishtank
Linkous/Sparklehorse uses vocal processing (a little too much on occasion), phasing and instruments no longer in common usage to create an ethereal, dreamy sound with a "here but not here" quality.
On the psychedelic tinged "Don't Take My Sunshine," the opening track on "Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain," it's all very appealing. However, much of the album consists of sparse ballads with clever touches - hypnotic guitars ("See The Light") and lazy, trippy vocals ("Shade And Honey"). The standout track is "Some Sweet Day" with the captivating lyric "I was the one who loved you most, but you can't put your arms around a ghost."
"Dreamt" is not just a collection of slow tunes. Sparklehorse gets going on the jangling "Ghost In The Sky," "Mountains" and "It's Not So Hard," which has cymbals crashing as the guitar riff rises for an effective counterpoint.