I wasn't familiar with Sparklehorse before this album - or rather, I knew there was a band so named, but I only had encountered it as a "featuring Sparklehorse" on a Radiohead b-side - a "Wish You Were Here" cover that's actually pretty good. I never listened to their older album, which is supposed to be good, but I will. In the meantime, I found this one.
I was in my usual cafe and I heard what sounded like a Labradford song playing - instrumental, airy, and tremolo-ey. It kind of tripped me out because Labradford is one of my "private" bands - ones usually only I know about. I asked the barista and he told me it was Sparklehorse. It was good, so I got it - and although only one track is Labradford-esque, the rest of the album was impressive. I guess it's a long-awaited effort, postponed by breakups, rehab, that sort of thing - kind of like every Spiritualized album. I'm not into taking that kind of of context into consideration, so we'll just toss it right out the window and focus on the music.
Sparklehorse is a bit hard to nail down, apparently - from track to track the band varies from ephemeral, depressing folk - "Return To Me" and "Morning Hollow" - to tight, catchy pop-rock - "Ghost In The Sky," "It's Not So Hard" - to the final, title track, an extended and minimalistic dirge layering synth, ghostly guitar, and punctuated by a life-support beep. So any attempt to categorize the band will fail. Nevertheless, they are surely being listed as "indie rock" in Spin or something as I write, that catch-all term that describes everything from Sufjan Stevens to, apparently, the Killers. In any case, forget about all that, and just listen to the music. It's all high-quality, and if I heard correctly many tracks are collaborations with other musicians, including DJ Danger Mouse of all people. The production is good and it's worth listening to on good headphones or speakers, because there are little additions and tweaks that would be lost otherwise.
Your best move is to either just get the album, because I can say with confidence that you'll at least like probably half of it, or get the tracks here and decide whether it's worth your time. It's a good album, built to last and full of pleasant surprises.
Here's "Return To Me," and "Knives of Summertime," by Sparklehorse.
Also, in honor of long song week, here is the title track,
"Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain."