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It's a Wonderful Life
label: capitol
released: 08.28.01
our score: 4.5 out of 5.0

by: bill aicher

With the release of his third full-length album, Sparklehorse leader Mark Linkous has created a fulfilling voyage into the lonely psyche. It's a Wonderful Life, follows the trends set forth by contemporaries Mercury Rev and Grandaddy, as well as delves into a deep-seated love-of-Neil Young vibe.

On the album opening title track Linkous offers a falsetto whispering "I'm a bog of poison frogs / It's a wonderful life" over a meandering loop of bells and guitar and a shuffling drum beat - giving a sense of satisfaction with being. The album may sound depressing, but Linkous makes certain to point out from the start that it is anything but.

With guest artists ranging from rock-goddess PJ Harvey to Cardigans vocalist Nina Persson to the one and only Tom Waits, It's a Wonderful Life exhibits a level of depth not before experienced with Sparklehorse. Harvey's edgy guitars and backing vocals on "Piano Fire" offer up one of the album's few straight-up rockers, while her work on the Bacharach-esque piano-laden "Eyepennies" brings an essential fullness to the vocals and Persson's harmonizing vocals invoke the introspection of the hushed "Apple Bed." Unfortunately, the album's lowest point lies in the misplaced "Dog Door," the one song to prominently feature Tom Waits.

The album reaches its highest points when Linkous is at his most honest levels, most notably "Gold Day," "More Yellow Birds" and "Babies on the Sun." Still, even when the album seems to be at it's low points one realizes that these lows are only relative.

It's a Wonderful Life?

Damn straight it is.
18-Jan-2002 1:15 PM

If you liked It's a Wonderful Life...

1. It's a Wonderful Life
2. Gold Day
3. Piano Fire
4. Sea of Teeth
5. Apple Bed
6. King of Snails
7. Eyepennies
8. Dog Door
9. More Yellow Birds
10. Little Fat Baby
11. Devil's New
12. Comfort Me
13. Babies On the Sun