After nearly a year of legal back-and-forth, Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse's collaborative project Dark Night of the Soul
has finally been officially released. The album's title refers to a period of loneliness and spiritual desolation, which revealed itself to be eerily foreboding after Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse) committed suicide and Vic Chesnutt overdosed during the last year. It might be tempting to let the controversy and tragedy overshadow the actual music on the album but that would be a mistake&mdash Dark Night of the Soul
is a carefully curated array of darkly beautiful tracks. Most of these hold their own as individual tracks, but combined they toss and turn, speak with shadows, and cover every nuance of ominous night.
The opening songs on the album are subtle and deliberate creepers, featuring the triptych of Wayne Coyne, Jason Lytle, and Gruff Rhys (of Flaming Lips, Granddaddy, and Super Furry Animals, respectively). While Lytle's "Jaykub," a floaty dream sequence triumphing the mundane, is sweetly charming, there's nothing quite like Coyne (in all his wild-haired balloon-piloting glory) singing that he has "all the means of bringing you f*ckers down" to give you the chills.
The Julian Casablancas track, "Little Girl," picks up both the pace and the mood. It might seem out of step with the rest of the album, but any insomniac that's gotten the 2am second wind which manically compels you to do your dishes and reorganize your photo albums while periodically dancing around the room can vouch for it. It's certainly the catchiest, most infectious track on the album. Following it are abrasive, distortion-heavy tracks by Frank Black and Iggy Pop which boast big names but don't quite follow through.
Mellower tracks follow, including "Everytime I'm With You," Lytle's ode to late-night rendezvous ("every time I'm with you / I am drunk and you are too / well tell me what the hell else are we supposed to do"), a dystopic lullaby by Nina Persson of the Cardigans ("I woke up and all my yesterdays were gone"), and a throwback crooner by Suzanne Vega.
How does darkness fall? Gradually, and then suddenly. No redemptive dawn waits at the end of the tunnel. Chesnutt's twisted "Grim Augury" and the title track (featuring David Lynch) make a nightmarish denouement to the album, collapsing inward into a fitful surrealist mishap. Initially tempted to chalk them up to a chiefly Lynchian aesthetic, they are more accurately a gathering of everyone's monsters from the id, a peek into the void, a face-to-face encounter with whatever's been lurking under your bed all this time.
A masterful album, for sure. Just don't be surprised if you can't sleep quite the same afterwards. Nina Mashurova
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MP3: "Little Girl (Ft. Julian Casablancas)"
Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse