Album Review: Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul

[Self Released/Unreleased; 2009]

The term “dark night of the soul” refers to the stage in a person’s spiritual life when they feel alone and life seems dim. It is fitting that Danger Mouse and Linkous (aka Sparklehorse) chose this as the title for their collaboration. Not only does the term act as a unifying concept for the album, but it also packs a potent punch onto itself describing something that most people have felt.

A unifying concept is required for this album, though. Each song, while acting as part of a while, contains its own unique atmosphere. This is a byproduct of Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse utilizing various musicians and singers for each song. The songs range from slower indie-esque songs like “Revenge” and “Jaykub” to rock, punk and blues songs like “Angel’s Harp”, “Pain” and “Dark Night of the Soul”. However, all of the songs are generally glum and on the slow side with dark and introspective lyrics which, from time to time, reference religion – as in “Angel’s Harp” (‘Jesus and his hair’).

While each song is sonically distinctive, they are all tied together by Danger Mouse’s mastering techniques. The techniques are found in almost all of his work, from The Black Keys to Gnarls Barkley, and features highly distorted and edited vocal tracks as well as some hip-hop-esque sounds in the background, which come as no surprise given Danger Mouse’s background. While Dark Night of the Soul is a new step in Danger Mouse’s career, it very closely echoes the overall feel and sound of The Black Keys’ Attack and Release, and both Gnarls Barkley releases.

The album has a series of great songs like the ghostly reggae track “Everytime I’m With You.” However, even given the unifying concept and mood at times it feels less than cohesive. The effects laden voices can also become annoying from time to time.

Despite the album’s few hiccups, Dark Night of the Soul provides enough variety to appeal to enthusiasts of all genres. This idiosyncratic collaboration could not have been contrived by anyone other than Danger Mouse, who has dabbled in nearly every corner of the musical world. Furthermore, despite its dark themes, Dark Night of the Soul is a living, operative entity that has shown more spirit than nearly every other release this year, thanks to Danger Mouse’s intricate production and Linkous’ inconspicuous touches and songwriting.