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    Album Reviews: Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain by Sparklehorse

    When Daniel Johnston was saluted on the Late Great Daniel Johnston compilation, one of the most fruitful pairings of admirers was Sparklehorse with The Flaming Lips. The two bands are kindred spirits of sort; while the Lips are the energetic, psychedelic gurus for the party animals and the ADD-afflicted, Mark Linkous and Sparklehorse choose their own quieter adventure: beautifully arranged Americana with a broken heart.

    In addition to some general vocal resemblance, Linkous, like Wayne Coyne, manages to be both a troubled everyman and a man of mystery. It's been five years since his last full-length, the rightfully acclaimed It's A Wonderful Life, but it's easier to swallow a lengthy absence when you're presented with a gem afterwards. Moving between melancholy folk and fuzzed-out indie rockers, Linkous leaves a lasting impression on a record that should be enjoyed as a whole, not as just a few recommended songs gleaned from mp3 blogs (and its broad appeal should result in plenty of blog buzz).

    When the album is digested in full, "Ghost In The Sky" and "It's Not So Hard" receive an extra adrenaline boost because of their track placement. After six tracks of relative quiet, "Ghost In The Sky" jars the listener with a burst of distorted indie rock from the mid-'90s, much like earlier Sparklehorse college radio semi-hits like "Someday I Will Treat You Good" and "Pig." "It's Not So Hard," a charged-up collaboration with Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips, also comes after a lengthy moment of repose.

    "I could look at your face for a thousand years / It's like a civil war of pain and of cheer," Linkous sings on "Shade and Honey," a delightful, wistful daydream that floats along on one of the most buoyant arrangements on the album. "Morning Hollow," a song that Linkous had hoped would receive more attention circa It's A Wonderful Life, reappears here and takes the opposite approach, slowing to molasses speed as Linkous mumble-sings and Tom Waits sporadically plays some lonesome-sounding keys. This eclecticism has always served Linkous well, and on Dreamt for Light Years, he again operates effectively and memorably on both ends of the spectrum. - Adam McKibbin, The Red Alert

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