Sparklehorse Play “Shade And Honey”

Sparklehorse-DreamtForLightListen to this track by melancholy and moody musical banner as fueled by the creative engine of one Mark Linkous, Sparklehorse. It’s “Shade and Honey”, a song that appears on Linkous’ last album, 2006’s Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain.  The song would also appear in another version in the film Laurel Canyon, sung by Alessandro Nivola.

By this time in his career, Linkous was a very well-respected musician, having collaborated with top flight artists ranging from Danger Mouse, to Nina Persson, to Tom Waits. The resulting music he created seemed to plumb the depths of the human soul in the quietest and most subtle sense, without self-aggrandizement or overblown sentiment.

Linkous was also known as a troubled spirit. This seemed to be confirmed when he ended his own life in 2010. So, like his contemporary Elliott Smith, the overall sound of his music suggested to many that his own struggles with mental illness had to be found in it. This is a common enough approach that many listeners take; to conflate the sound of something with its content, meaning, or its intention. This tune is very easily heard as a sort of elegy or anthem of loss. But, in listening to this song, I wonder if Linkous was actually trying to communicate the exact opposite. Read more

A Camp Performs ‘I Can Buy You’

a_camp_-_a_campHere’s a clip from The Cardigans’ Nina Persson, Atomic Swing’s Nicholas Frisk,  and Sparklehorse‘s Mark Linkous, AKA A Camp with their 2001 radio-friendly country rock throwback track ‘I Can Buy You’ as featured on their self-titled debut album.

When it came out, this track reminded me of 1970s radio, specifically country rock as inspired by Neil Young, America, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, and Seals and Crofts, among others. Whether or not this is what they were going for might be arguable.  But, the use of the harmonica and lap steel works very strongly in my favour, I think.

One thing which I think our current decade has done is to allow artists to throw anything into the pot, with almost half a century of rock traditions from which to choose.  I think too that the choice to change direction even within the running time of a single album is also pretty much the norm now too, which is also a big checkmark in the A column when it comes to music made in recent years.  And this is certainly true here with this band, made up of 90s bands which can be found on differing points on the pop/rock scale, yet still interested in what makes good pop music no matter what the pool of influences are .

The Cardigans, for instance, were firmly in the realm of indie-pop, with a monster hit in 1996 in ‘Lovefool’ as featured on the Romeo + Juliet (10th Anniversary Edition).  Sparklehorse tend to be a little less recognized as a pop group, with a bit more emphasis on lo-fi texture rather than pop hooks.  Yet Persson and Linkous have created something entirely other from their primary bands, mostly due to how much emphasis they’ve placed on pop songwriting.

Collaborations in rock music tend to be one-offs, counted as side projects, and sometimes not given much artistic credence.  Yet to me, this song was one of my favourites of 2001, which was a storming year for music.

Be sure too to check out the band’s newest record, Colonia, now featuring new member and Persson’s husband Nathan Larson of Shudder to Think.