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4.6 out of 5 stars29
4.6 out of 5 stars
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2001
In 1996 Mark Linkous (the man behind Sparklhorse) caused serious injury to himself by way of electrocution, although this didn't prevent him from appearing at that years Reading festival in a wheel chair, or producing on of the most innovative albums of that year. This album continues where Vivadixie..., Good Morning Spider, and Distorted Ghost Ep left off, and does not disappoint.
Initially Sparklehorse were championed by REM frontman Michael Stipe, but have sinced been joined by a futher number of celebrity bandwagon-jumpers. Heard here are PJ Harvey, Tom Waits and Nina Persson (Cardigans) and John Parish. Its A Wonderful Life sounds fantastic, Marks voice is perhaps more distinct, and you get swept along in a torent of crazy lyrics ("Circus People with hairy little hands!"), lush string arrangements, Lo-Fi style techniques, and a sense of melancholy.
If you like Eels, Grandaddy, and the like, this is definately worth investigating...
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2001
Forget about the hype surrounding the new releases from Radiohead and REM (impressive as they are): the summer's must have album comes from a little known band by the name of Sparklehorse.
Sparklehorse are not really a band as such. They are, essentially, singer/songwriter Mark Linkous & Friends making music that by turns feels drowsy and intensely awake. Sadly, they have always been overlooked.
Until now that is. Cue a little help on album number three from Linkous' friends - Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Nina Persson, Dave Fridmann - and Sparklehorse may yet be rescued from obscurity.
This album is a curious blend of country and rock. The trademark growl of Waits on the thumpy Dog Door, and Harvey's static-electric vocals on the radio-friendly Piano Fire, are obvious highlights.
Polly Harvey shows again on Eyepennies - a gorgeous piano melody. The blaring King of Nails is in contrast to its predecessor, Apple Bed, in which Linkous sings sadistically like a man possessed.
Linkous' dark, poetic lyrics and unmistakable sound have earned Sparklehorse lots of friends in the music industry. It can only be a matter of time before the record-buying public click on.
If any band deserves attention, it's Sparklehorse. A fragile genius, mainman Linkous has created an album like no other this year. On those grounds alone you should add it to your collection.
Gary Flockhart, Scotland Online
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2001
Sparklehorse return after a long hiatus following 1998's classic 'Good Morning Spider', an album which forever cemented their reputation as the frazzled kings of Alt Country and assured their place in the hearts of the lo-fi nation. While this new joint ain't really that much of a departure from the previous two records, the mood is certainly more relaxed and optimistic - avoiding the intense, almost opressive aura of before. This probably has a lot to do with Linkous being clean for the recording, the opening and closing lullabies of 'Its a Wonderful Life' and 'Babies on the Sun' recall the parallel approach of 'vivadixie...', capturing the melancholy sensibility and pathos of before but with more pronounced hope. Elsewhere on the album Linkous introduces a host of collaborators into the fray with the likes of Nina Perrson (Cardigans), PJ Harvey, and Tom Waits contributing vocals and in Waits case (on the neurotic, beck-like 'Dog Door') co-writing credits. If you are expecting a change of musical direction from Linkous on this record, you will be disappointed, however if you are still spellbound by the lush melancholy, fractured melody, and the vuneranable, heartbreaking, yet inevitably joyful tracts of Linkous' lyrical spells, or if you are curious and willing to sample something a bit leftfield of the established indie/alternative axis, then lap it up and feel the pain (birds).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2002
I went out on a limb and bought this based on great reviews and mentions of Mercury Rev (Dave Fridmann production) influences. I was rewarded, it's sensational but more Neil Young (More Yellow Birds) than the Rev (Gold Day). Gold Day is wonderful, Piano Fire is a favourite and would make a great single. Apple Bed and Eyepennies are the choice ballads.
Melancholic but inspiring. You can really lose yourself in this. I give four stars as I have heard better albums, just not that many. I'm off to catch up and get hold of Linkous' back catalogue.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2001
Being a big Sparklehorse fan, I was expecting this album to be excellent. I was certainly more than satisfied. What the listener can expect to hear is yet another eclectic mix of back-to-basics pop genius, namely in "Comfort Me" and "Apple Bed", but the lo-fi surrealism of "Gold day" and "Babies in the sun" may come as a bit of a shock. The Sparklehorse sound is pushed to it's limits, but that was the whole reason behind Mark Linkous' brilliance - he always knows just how far he can push the sound - how far he has to take it in order to achieve perfection. So, quelle surprise, this album is another wonderful LP. Other bands could do well to follow Linkous' example.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2001
"It's a Wonderful Life" is the best album yet by a band that was supposed to crash and burn years ago. This album is a revelation: The whole thing sounds timeless. This is the work of an enlightened man. "Eyepennies" is brilliant, shot into the atmosphere by PJ Harvey's flashes of vocal brilliance. Elsewhere, Linkous sounds like what I would imagine Elvis Costello would sound like now if he hadn't started becoming a cabaret act (not meant as a jab at the king, mind you, but you get the idea). All in all, anyone who feels that Radiohead's brand of machination is too cold but still enjoy the thrill of pushing the sound envelope should check out "It's a Wonderful Life"--life affirming without being trite, experimental without being alienating, and perfect from now on.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 June 2001
This ranges less than past Sparklehorse, but that just makes the stunning success of this record all the sweeter. On Good Morning Spider, if someone does not care for a song, there are songs of several other styles altogether they can listen to and still come away liking Sparklehorse. While this is no longer possible as this record is less schizophrenic than past recordings, the lush, happy, pop will not disappoint, so there's nothing to worry about. I have all three Sparklehorse albums, and this fits in well. If you don't own anything by Mark yet, perhaps you should purchase GMS first. Or buy them at the same time. If you just want to buy this one, listen to the poppier songs, say "Piano Fire," a few times in a row and imagine what you're in store for when you buy the other records.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2012
Discovering Sparklehorse's first album by chance in a 2nd hand shop was an intro to his beautiful, often whimsical, sometimes angry, but upbeat world.
I feel this is his best album, a warm and crackly peephole into his world.
As someone who had a dog that ate his birthday cake when I was maybe 5, this is the the kind of sepia tinged, faded polaroid hazed, trinket gathering collection of prose, that somehow connects on a deep level of melancholy, but feels like a warm hug infront of a fire, at the same time while supping on a whiskey.
Gone, but not forgotten.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 December 2013
I love this album. Beautiful songs, full of wonderful and magical imagery - such a twisted and genius song-writer. Genuinely unique and special, not many out there like that, and unfortunately, one less.

A must buy if you are a Sparklehorse fan!, and worth a try if you are not. It was my first album of theirs (his ?).

It kind of reminds me of the world that director who did Pans Labyrinth can take you, dark but mysterious, rich, meaningful and somehow real and dreamy at the same time.

'May all your days be gold my child' - Sparklehorse
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on 4 October 2001
Great follow- up for "Good morning spider". Mark Linkous prooves, that "slow" doesn't have to mean "boring". In fact, the atmosphere is very quiet. Exeption: The third track, Piano fire, who is in my opinion one of the best pop songs ever, kissed by "the byrds" and PJ Harvey, who collaborated for this one and "Eyepennies". And yet another "guest star": "Dog door" is sung by the one and only Tom Waits. By hearing the music of sparklehorse, it seems obvious that Mark Linkous is a sad person. "Little fat baby" hurts you deeply, just like "gold day". But the man doesn't make "black" music, that makes you want to shoot yourself; it's simply extremely beautyfull, touched by a muse. So, the album- title "it's a wonderfull life" matches "ironicly" good.
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