Rolling Stone - 8/30/01, p.1223.5 stars out of 5
- "...Slow and elegiac....The music is stately and deep as good loam, built around a few measures repeated stolidly with a kind of back-country resignation....peculiarly evocative."
Spin - 10/01, p.1276 out of 10
- "...A thick candy-and-sandpaper shell of weird old keyboards, strings, and liberally applied distortion concealing Dave Fridmann's frail Virginia murmur and surreal images..."
Q - 7/01, p.1164 stars out of 5
- "...Excellent....combining droll lyrical insights with various permutations of guitar, keyboards, drums and electronica..."
Alternative Press - 10/01, p.1007 out of 10
- "...An enchanting record..."
Magnet - 12-1/02, p.57
Included in Magnet's "20 Best Albums of 2001".
CMJ - 9/3/01, p.5
"...This is a mood record for sure - but one that's not without its mood swings..."
Mojo (Publisher) - 7/01, p.98
"...Among America's modern primitives Mark Linkous is close to pre-eminent."
NME (Magazine) - 12/29/01, p.59Ranked #22
in NME's 50 "Albums Of the Year 2001".
NME (Magazine) - 6/9/01, p.408 out of 10
- "...A wonderful record...of backwood blues....Every moment thrums with micro-activity..."
Sparklehorse includes: Mark Linkous (vocals, Wurlitzer piano, Chamberlin, Optigon, percussion, samples); Sophie Michelitsianos (vocals, bass); Adrian Utley (guitar, bass); Joan Wasser (violin); Jane Scarpantoni (cello); Dave Fridmann (piano, bass); John Parish (synthesizer, bass); Bob Rupe (bass); Scott Minor (drums, programming); Miguel Rodriguez (drums).
Additional personnel includes: PJ Harvey (vocals, electric guitar, piano); Nina Persson, Tom Waits (vocals).
Recorded at Tarboy Road Studios, Cassadaga, New York.
Personnel: Mark Linkous (vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar, Wurlitzer organ, chamberlin, Mellotron, Moog synthesizer, drum machine, percussion, sampler); Nina Persson (vocals); Alan Weatherhead (lap steel guitar, chamberlin, Mellotron); Joan Wasser (violin, Wurlitzer organ); Margaret White (violin); Jane Scarpantoni (cello); Dave Fridmann (piano, Wurlitzer organ, Mellotron, glockenspiel); Scott Minor (chamberlin, drums, percussion, electronics); Miguel Rodriguez (drums).
Audio Mixers: Dave Fridmann; John Parish; Mark Linkous.
Recording information: Bit-A-Beat Studios, Barcelona, Spain; Joe Hoffman Studio, CA; Mission Sound Studios, Brooklyn, NY; Sound Of Music, Richmond, VA; Static King, Enon, VA; Tarbox Road Studios, Casadaga, NY.
Photographer: Dan Estabrook.
Sparklehorse singer/songwriter Mark Linkous's consistently eclectic and inventive work garnered the admiration of many fellow musicians over the years, and a number of them appear on 2001's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, the band's ambitious third full-length album. In addition to co-producing the record with Linkous, Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev/Flaming Lips) contributes various instruments, along with Portishead's Adrian Utley and PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish. Harvey herself lends her voice and guitar to the jagged "Piano Fire" and funereal "Eyepennies," her bold, plaintive singing playing wonderfully off of Linkous's more subdued vocals. Cardigans singer Nina Persson shows up on the bright pop gem "Gold Day" and the sleepy "Applebed," adding gorgeous harmonies at just the right moments, a presence sharply contrasted by Tom Waits's scruffy lead-vocal turn on the lumbering "Dog Door."
With all of the high-profile guests, it's remarkable that Linkous manages to keep the album sharply focused and solidly anchored, even with his usual satchel full of quirky sounds (optigan, electronic birds, "big seed pod") and enigmatic lyrical motifs (eyes, teeth, horses, dogs) on hand. Yet another fascinating installment in Linkous's catalogue, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE reinforces his status as a unique musical visionary.