A Brighter Blast of Weird from Sparklehorse The South Carolina band Sparklehorse has built a sizeable indie-rock following for their sad, strangely beautiful and sometimes just strange tunes. Their new album, Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain, finds Sparklehorse indulging their talent for oddball prettiness — and brighten up a bit.

A Brighter Blast of Weird from Sparklehorse

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To describe sounds by the indie rock band Sparklehorse, you'd probably use words like eerie, strangely beautiful, and sometimes just strange. According to reviewer Christian Hoard, the band's new album is still infused with the oddball and the sublime.

(Soundbite of song "It's a Wonderful Life")

Mr. MARK LINKOUS (Singer, Sparklehorse): (Singing) It's a wonderful life.

CHRISTIAN HOARD: That's a song called It's a Wonderful Life, from Sparklehorse's 2001 album of the same name. It's a truly amazing, oddly seductive cut that sums up Sparklehorse as well as anything. The band are led by Virginia native Mark Linkous, a singer/songwriter with depressive tendencies and a taste for sonics that are either seductively slow or sometimes just wimpy.

His band's atmospheric, vaguely psychedelic sound suggests The Flaming Lips with a Vicodin buzz and the blues.

(Soundbite of music)

HOARD: The new Sparklehorse album, Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain, isn't a huge departure. But happily, it is a bit brighter and looser. Whatever the reason, Linkous has made a charming, occasionally snoozy record that works up off-kilter beauty and hangs on to his rural, space-cadet weirdness without getting too fussy about anything.

(Soundbite of song "Morning Hollow")

Mr. LINKOUS: (Singing) (Unintelligible), morning hollow, trembling and getting old.

HOARD: Morning Hollow is about as sad and slow as Light Years gets. Throughout the album, Linkous's dreamy, even narcotic, keyboards are warmer and more matter-of-fact than before. They don't feel oppressive or fussed-over like they did on earlier records.

(Soundbite of song "Morning Hollow")

Mr. LINKOUS: (Singing) So don't give up, mellow (unintelligible).

HOARD: That approach makes more space than ever for Linkous's warbled, increasingly sunny melodies, some of which are worthy of prime Neil Young, some of which are kind of vague.

The relatively straight approach holds up even when Linkous gets production help from The Flaming Lips drummer, Steven Drozd, and Gnarls Barkley, co-leader of Danger Mouse, as on this song, Don't Take My Sunshine Away.

(Soundbite of song "Don't Take My Sunshine Away")

Mr. LINKOUS: (Singing) (Unintelligible) baby you are my sunshine, sunshine. Please don't take my sunshine away.

HOARD: All right, so the song doesn't exactly come up and give you a kiss, and it's full of Linkous's trademark impressionistic lyrics, but it's surprisingly warm and simple, with Linkous's apparently un-ironic good vibes being translated into a Beach Boys-worthy melody. Light Years is full of cuts like that. I'll leave you with Shade and Honey, which sounds like an out-and-out love song. With enough oddball charm all over this album, it's great to hear Linkous try to craft a perfect pop tune and come close to nailing it.

(Soundbite of song "Shade and Honey")

Mr. LINKOUS: (Singing) May your shade go sweet, and (unintelligible) made of honey.

BRAND: The CD is called Dreamt for Light Years In the Belly of a Mountain by the band Sparklehorse. Our reviewer, Christian Hoard, is a contributing writer to Rolling Stone magazine.

(Soundbite of song "Shade and Honey")

Mr. LINKOUS: (Singing) She's returning to the earth, but one day she'll be silver...

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