He was a music luminary that paved the way for so much creativity.
Known to work with what he had, finding cheap instruments at thrift stores and his favourite microphone at the tip, Mark Linkous – also known as Sparklehorse – spent what seemed like most of his life as a musician somehow always bordering on self-sabotage. Yet his ability to turn chaos into beauty was truly something unique.
1998 saw the release of Good Morning Spider featuring loud, noisy, fast punk tracks like opener ‘Pig’, “I wanna be a stupid and shallow motherfucker now. I wanna be a tough-skinned bitch but I don’t know how” and soft expressions of peace like ‘Saint Mary’, “the only things I really need is water, a gun and rabbits.” Woven between these different genres is a perfect pop song, ‘So Sick of Goodbyes’. Catchy and upbeat, its sound perfectly illustrates the relevance of Sparklehorse in the ’90s. Good Morning Spider was written after Linkous had a long hospital stay which is reflected in several of the song’s lyrics and sound, showcasing the array of Sparklehorse’s musical abilities as well as the mix of emotions and experiences Linkousconstantly dealt with.
Released in 2010 only a few months after Linkous’ death, Dark Night of the Soul is an ode to a community of creative people who respected and admired Sparklehorse. The collaborative album between Danger Mouse and Sparklehorsefeatures an array of personal touches from different musicians on each track. Unlike Sparklehorse’s previous albums, Dark Night of the Soul is almost seamless in production and sound, which can mainly be attributed to Danger Mouse’s production of the record. The opening tracks featuring Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips and Julian Casablancas of The Strokes and are reminiscent of previous Sparklehorse songs, particularly those of his 2001 album, It’s a Wonderful Life.
The album then progresses into a more typical punk section with Iggy Pop and Black Francis of Pixies. The remainder of the tracks feature bits of psychedelia and the soft, calm sadness captured by Sparklehorse in older recordings. James Mercer, his voice which is so distinct to The Shins, appears on ‘Insane Lullaby’ accompanied by beautiful string instruments playing along with what sounds like white noise – a distinct creation of Linkous, shedding light on the collaboration process that would have occurred. The album ends with the haunting title track ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ featuring David Lynch, a perfect fit for beauty within the madness.
March 6, 2019 marked nine years since Mark Linkous was found in an alley after he had shot himself in the chest. The sounds he created and music he expressed in his own modest way has influenced many artists and will continue to speak to listeners.