Album: Sparklehorse – Bird Machine review

A lovingly curated epilogue to the Sparklehorse story

By Phil Scarisbrick

Arriving some thirteen years after the tragic demise of band leader Mark Linkous, Bird Machine is an album built around music that Linkous worked on with Steve Albini prior to the Danger Mouse-produced Dark Night of the Soul. Pieced together by Linkous’ brother Matt and sister-in-law Melissa, it would be easy to see this as an ‘odds and ends’ collection of outtakes and music not deemed good enough to release while the artist was around. Such endeavours have become par for the course in the aftermath of an artists’ demise, especially when money is there to be made. This record ain’t that.

Devoid of the kind of cynicism one might attach to a project like this, the fourteen track collection showcases everything that made Sparklehorse such a dedicatedly-adored band over the last three decades. The empathy of its creation matches the empathy of its contents.

Tracks such as Everybody’s Gone To Sleep and The Scull of Lucia deliver a beautiful dose of earnest melancholy, while scuzzy gems like Listening the the Higsons and opener It Will Never Stop add a brash edge to proceedings. Kind Ghosts’ angular electronica adds just enough grounding for Linkous’ Daniel Johnston-esque delivery. Like Johnston, it is the rough edges pointing towards an inner sadness that punctuate the unadorned beauty that is most instantly striking.

The circumstances around which we have seen this album arrive will control much of the narrative when discussing it, but judged on the basis in and of itself, this is a classic Sparklehorse album. While we can mourn the loss of Mark Linkous, this lovingly curated epilogue at least gives us a final reminder of why so many of us will.

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