Sparklehorse
It's a Wonderful Life


4.0
excellent

Review

by Tristan Jones EMERITUS
July 11th, 2014 | 75 replies


Release Date: 2001 | Tracklist


With It's a Wonderful Life, we see a side of Mark Linkous that is more focused than previously presented on Good Morning Spider. The album works much more cohesively, and is best enjoyed in one sitting accompanied by little more than the taste of scotch in a dimly lit room. Yes, the album sees the ever-somber Linkous use sardonic wordplay to entice the listener, merely hinting at the singer's underlying depression. This is evident right from the get-go, with the album opener and title track. Then again, I approached this track with the knowledge that Linkous had written it specifically as a lovely middle finger to critics who undervalued his usual dark lyrical themes, so perhaps I saw the humour in the singer's apparent wonderful life as he described it.

The album is thematically grim, while still lighthearted and naive. A lackluster research attempt on my part suggests that the album was written at a point in Mark's life when he had all but completely cast aside drugs, and a glimmer of optimism shines through in the more playful parts of IAWL. This can contribute to the overall emotional impact of the album, given the fact that Linkous shot himself ~9 years after the album was released.

Despite the smooth soft-spoken vocal melodies and well-suited instrumentation, the album feels restrained. Regardless, I found myself barely hanging on during "Apple Bed", particularly here:

Please
Doctor, please
The witches will return to their sticky tree knots
I will feel the sun
I will feel the sun
I will feel the sun coming down

The challenge with analyzing Sparklehorse lyrically, is much of what Mark Linkous writes straddles the line between metaphorical and nonsensical. Nonetheless, the tone he creates conveys a saddening underlying message, albeit frustratingly. As a listener, I felt myself patiently waiting for Linkous to reach an emotional peak at some point, but he trudges on calmly and unwavering.

Though, perhaps this is what makes IAWL work so cohesively, considering the multitude of guest musicians and orchestral backdrops, with pianos, woodwinds, and the like. This marks an interesting transition from Sparklehorse's previous albums. A decent comparison would be of Say Anything's ...Is a Real Boy, followed by In Defense of the Genre. The former album showcased Max Bemis at what many would consider his creative peak, where he had utmost control on nearly every aspect of the album's production amidst a drug-fueled lifestyle, whereas the latter album sees Bemis more focused and collaborative.

The group effort certainly benefits the overall direction. While there is less unrestrained experimentation fans of Good Morning Spider might have hoped for, the album simply works, and every track is a worthwhile listen, though you might find Tom Waits' contribution on "Dog Door" a tad underwhelming. The instrumentation throughout the album is near-flawless, and is interesting enough to highlight Sparklehorse's creative spark while not overwhelming the earnest lyricism.

"and is best enjoyed in one sitting accompanied by little more than the taste of scotch..."

Oh, and Glenfiddich Single Malt should do the trick.



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user ratings (190)
Chart.
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
July 11th 2014


6682 Comments


First review ever. I didn't really have a particular concept going in, so I'm not really stoked on it, but w/e. It was overdue for a review IMO

Mad.
July 11th 2014


4747 Comments


Great review, pos'd. I've never heard this but have seen it crop up a number of times and am interested. Pretty sad that the guy shot himself :/

Adabelle
July 11th 2014


4421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Done it justice, nice review (:

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 11th 2014


30215 Comments


Nice first write up, I'd love to see you keep at it! Pos'd.

Digging: Glen Hansard - This Wild Willing

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
July 11th 2014


6682 Comments


Cool thx guys

menawati
July 11th 2014


16587 Comments


nice review, love good morning spider and vivadixie really need to try this

InbredJed
July 11th 2014


6586 Comments


Overdue for a review [2]

Artuma
July 11th 2014


30346 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Overdue for a review [3]



finally this one got it

Digging: Low - Double Negative

RoyalImperialGuard
July 11th 2014


1569 Comments


Great band/album/review/etc.

Pheromone
November 19th 2014


6939 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Tried to get into Sparklehorse for so long but always skipped out on this one for being too long. its sparkehorses best tho tbh

Digging: Moonshake - Eva Luna

Pheromone
November 20th 2014


6939 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

keep all your crows away

hold skinny wolves at bay

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
November 20th 2014


6682 Comments


damn, first review. feels like ages ago

love this album. easily my favourite Sparklehorse

Pheromone
November 20th 2014


6939 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

perfect af

Ricochet
January 9th 2015


2690 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

bitchfork are duuumb Dog Door is so badass

Pheromone
March 7th 2015


6939 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

gold day damn best song ever tbh

Egarran
March 7th 2015


9574 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Piano Fire for me.

In another universe he's making 5 albums with duets only.

cagedbutterfly
March 10th 2015


582 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Love this album

Pheromone
April 1st 2015


6939 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Mark Linkous had the best voice ever

NorthernSkylark
May 7th 2015


9262 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

lovely album

Digging: The World Is a Beautiful Place... - Whenever, If Ever

WillieD
November 15th 2015


199 Comments


"King of Nails" is just so good. Sparklehorse is/was one of the most emotive artists I've ever heard.



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