Though Dark Night of the Soul -- a collaboration featuring songs written and produced by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous accompanied by David Lynch's photography -- was supposed to come out in 2009, a legal dispute between Danger Mouse and EMI delayed its release by over a year. By the time Dark Night officially saw the light of day, Linkous and another of the project’s players, singer/songwriter Vic Chesnutt, were dead. This could have cast a morbid shadow over the entire enterprise, but at its best, the album is a tribute to the collaborative spirit of everyone involved. After working with Danger Mouse on Sparklehorse’s 2006 album Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain, Linkous reunited with the producer to work on a set of songs that he didn’t feel comfortable singing himself, so they recruited an A-list crew of singers to provide vocals and lyrics. While all the guest performers give a lot of themselves -- you can hear the genesis of Broken Bells in James Mercer's “Insane Lullaby” and Suzanne Vega’s “Man Who Played God” is as breezily bittersweet as one of her own songs -- the melodies are indelibly Linkous'. Even with other people’s words on top of them, they’re alternately plaintive and whimsical, raging against an engulfing darkness or laughing at it all. Dark Night of the Soul's best moments feature artists most attuned to Linkous' vibe: Wayne Coyne's “Revenge” is an inspired fusion of Linkous’ dead-of-night ballads and the Flaming Lips’ philosophizing (“Once we become the things we dread/There’s no way to stop”). Grandaddy's Jason Lytle is a perfect match for the fragile, spacy Americana of “Jaykub” and "Everytime I’m with You” and Chesnutt -- perhaps Linkous' most kindred spirit here -- heightens Sparklehorse's occasional Southern Gothic bleakness on the nightmarish waltz “Grim Augury.” Meanwhile, Lynch's “Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It)" is a beautiful and unexpected highlight, his Midwestern drawl providing a poignant contrast to his abstract lyrics. Interestingly, the singers interpreting the noisy, harsh side of Linkous' music don’t fare as well: Black Francis' ambitious punk-noir-electro hybrid “Angel’s Harp” is too jarring, and while Iggy Pop's “Pain” could be seen as musical ipecac, his punk purging doesn’t have the vulnerability that Linkous brought to even his heaviest songs. He takes the lead on only one track here, the deceptively gentle “Daddy’s Gone,” where he sings “Don’t delay/Because people decay.” Despite the delay, Dark Night of the Soul shows what a talent and what a generous collaborator we lost in Mark Linkous.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
feat: David Lynch
feat: Mark Linkous
feat: David Lynch