(4 out of 5)
More than a year after it was first revealed, after months of legal wrangling, after thousands of people illegally downloaded it at the behest of Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) himself, after the death of Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous, DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL finally gets a for-real, available-everywhere release. And, despite the sad, sorry storyline that’s accompanied it, the album itself has proven quite worth the struggle. Conceived as a collaboration not just between Danger Mouse and Linkous, but also with David Lynch (a limited-edition book of Lynch’s photos provides some narrative glue for the songs) and the 11 guest vocalists who appear on the album, DARK NIGHT feels a lot like an all-originals, indie-rock version of one of 4AD’s This Mortal Coil albums. A consistent, melancholy mood permeates the set – not surprising, given the title – which may be a revelation to fans of Gnarls Barkley, but the relatively straightforward melodic approach here also stands to be something of a shock to those who adored Linkous’ fractured take on psychedelic songwriting. Each vocalist – whether Iggy Pop or Black Francis, Wayne Coyne or Julian Casablancas – makes each track their own, but even though it’s hard to imagine anyone besides Jason Lytle singing the very Grandaddy-esque “Jaykub,” the mood and theme here very much transcends beyond the singers and anchors itself to a vision set out by Burton, Linkous, and Lynch. It’s dark, to be sure, but it’s also incredibly soulful and introspective and, even if you can’t get your hands on the book that originally accompanied it, this is an album best absorbed in one straight-through listening session.
First appeared July 13, 2010 at Shockhound.com.