Whether it's a long-shelved work like Smile or an album that a label refuses to release like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, audiences often romanticize records that take a while to reach their ears. As silly as that can be, it's understandable: In an age when music feels increasingly disposable, albums held up by creative genius or corporate interference tend to media-championed events, regardless of the artistry. A recent example of this phenomenon — Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse's delayed, star-studded Dark Night of the Soul — is in stores, and while the usual hyperbole greeted its arrival, the album ably compensates so much surrounding noise.
A legal fight between Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) and Dark Night's label, EMI, kept the album shelved for more than a year, which didn't stop its wide web distribution. Judged on its own, the album fits nicely into Burton's recent oeuvre, which includes producing Beck's underrated Modern Guilt and working as part of Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells. Soulfulness, a tinge of '70s-pop melancholy — these are his trademarks, and they permeate Dark Night. But his collaborator Sparklehorse (aka Mark Linkous) is the album's spiritual force, filtering his spooky/gloomy theatrics through a cavalcade of guest vocalists, including Jason Lytle, Nina Persson and, absolutely best of all, David Lynch. Ultimately though, this modestly adventurous record is clouded by sadness — not the music, but also because Linkous committed suicide this year and a Dark Night's contributor, Vic Chesnutt, overdosed last Christmas. Hype is fleeting — that sense of horrible loss will linger over this moody, gorgeous album for far longer.
Tim Grierson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].