Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain

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Mark Linkous has always taken a generous amount of time to deliver new Sparklehorse albums. There was a nearly four-year gap between Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot and Good Morning Spider (which was understandable, as recovering from a near-fatal accidental overdose tends to take some time), and while the two and a half years between that album and 2001's It's a Wonderful Life were closer to the norm for most artists, the time period was still sizable. The five-year span between It's a Wonderful Life and Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain wasn't just sizable, it was long enough to raise expectations of what the album could deliver to unreasonable levels. Early reports that Linkous was going to collaborate with forward-thinking producer/electronic artist Fennesz on the album did nothing to sink those expectations either (as it happened, the pair teamed up for some live dates, but not in the studio). Despite the wait, Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain ends up feeling like quintessential Sparklehorse: there are some driving, searching rockers ("Ghost in the Sky"); some otherworldly ballads ("Return to Me"); lots of mellow, thoughtful pop; and just as many lyrics overflowing with images of honey, flowers, dirt, ghosts, and (of course) horses. This time around, though, it all feels more streamlined and straightforward, which is a little bit disappointing considering how long the album took to arrive and how much Linkous' music evolved on the other Sparklehorse albums. Nevertheless, there's still a beautiful balance of atmosphere and songcraft on Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain, particularly on "Some Sweet Day," "Knives of Summertime," and "Shade and Honey," which was originally part of the Laurel Canyon soundtrack as performed by Alessandro Nivola. Linkous' collaborators on the album include longtime Sparklehorse contributor Dave Fridmann and the Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd, both of whom turn in sympathetic but not especially distinctive performances; surprisingly, the same can be said of Danger Mouse's work on the album, which is most recognizable on the manipulated beats and electronic doodles on "Getting it Wrong." Actually, the most remarkable feature of Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain is its almost narcotic gentleness, particularly on "See the Light," "Morning Hollow" (a track with Tom Waits that was left over from the It's a Wonderful Life sessions), and the title track, which closes the album with ten minutes of serene atmospherics. Peaceful and undeniably pretty, this is an album that should please many Sparklehorse fans, even if it doesn't challenge them the way Good Morning Spider and It's a Wonderful Life's best moments did.

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