It's a Wonderful Life (album)

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It's a Wonderful Life
Studio album by Sparklehorse
Released August 8, 2001
Recorded 2000–01
Genre Indie rock, lo-fi
Length 61:06
Label Capitol/EMI
Producer Mark Linkous, Dave Fridmann, John Parish
Sparklehorse chronology
Distorted Ghost EP
(2000)
It's a Wonderful Life
(2001)
Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain
(2006)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
NME (8/10)[2]
Pitchfork Media (7.7/10)[3]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[4]

It's a Wonderful Life is the third album by Virginian indie rock group Sparklehorse, released in 2001. The album features appearances by Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, John Parish, Nina Persson, and Dave Fridmann. It was the band's most successful album commercially, selling over 63,000 copies.[5]

Recording history[edit]

Mark Linkous recorded his first two albums, Good Morning Spider and Vivadixesubmarinetransmissionplot, in a small room inside his Virginia farm. There he worked by himself, providing all of the instrumentation and vocals for those albums. After the release of those albums, however, "the guy who hired me left [Capitol]," Linkous told Free Williamsburg Online Magazine in 2002, and his record label discouraged the solo-production process. As a result, It’s a Wonderful Life was the first Sparklehorse outing in which Linkous did not perform alone in his private studio. “I didn't want to play every instrument on every song,” said the songwriter. “I didn't want to be behind the control console the whole time. I wanted to have other people's brains and input involved.” Linkous played with a full band while recording It’s a Wonderful Life. He also worked with a wide array of guest musicians, which included PJ Harvey and Tom Waits.[6]

Linkous was reportedly incredibly nervous about contacting Waits. In an interview with The Guardian, Linkous admitted he had to take five shots of whiskey before gaining the courage to call the famous singer-songwriter. During the phone call, the two men planned a meeting in California. The meeting was quite unusual and took place inside an SUV as the two men rode down a California highway. Within the car they discussed possible album ideas, their least-favorite animals, and their mutual disgust for turkey vultures.[7] Waits went on to record the song “Dog Door” with Linkous on the album.

It’s a Wonderful Life was recorded years after Linkous’s near-fatal drug overdose in a London hotel room. The incident received a large amount of media coverage and was documented within several music magazines, including Rolling Stone and Spin. Linkous frequently had to answer questions about his overdose during interviews. He was also chastised by some critics for the exceedingly somber themes in his work. The album’s title track is a melancholy ode to the beauties of life. The chorus has Linkous faintly whispering, “It’s a wonderful life,” over and over, on top of lush orchestration in addition to looping electronic textures. Linkous declared the song was a "fuck-you" to journalists who couldn’t forget about his brush with death, or see the beauty hidden within his songs.[8]

Sonic Cinema[edit]

All of the album's songs were made into music videos by various filmmakers, such as the Quay Brothers, Garine Torossian, Grant Gee, and Guy Maddin. These became the subject of the October 26, 2001, episode of the Sundance Channel series Sonic Cinema.[9]

The Sonic Cinema: Sparklehorse episode included the following music videos, with their respective directors or talent.[10]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks by Mark Linkous except where stated.

  1. "It's a Wonderful Life" – 2:59
  2. "Gold Day" – 4:14
  3. "Piano Fire" – 2:43
  4. "Sea of Teeth" – 4:29
  5. "Apple Bed" – 4:54
  6. "King of Nails" – 4:18
  7. "Eyepennies" – 5:27
  8. "Dog Door" (Brennan/Linkous/Waits) – 2:46
  9. "More Yellow Birds" – 4:53
  10. "Little Fat Baby" (Chesnutt/Linkous) – 3:40
  11. "Devil's New" – 3:32
    • Excluded from European release.
  12. "Comfort Me" – 5:01
  13. "Babies on the Sun" – 4:37
  14. "Morning Hollow" [hidden track] – 7:26

Personnel[edit]

  • Mark Linkous—Voice (1–7, 9, 10, 12–14), optigan (1, 2, 6, 8, 12, 13), chamberlin (1, 2), sampler (1, 4, 5, 8), guitar (2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12), Wurlitzer piano (2), percussion (2), acoustic guitar (3), Casio keyboard (3), mellotron (4, 13), drum machine (5, 12), Prophet 5 synthesizer (6, 12), drums (8), backwards midget voice (8), Magic Genie organ (9), Moog synthesizer (12, 13), wire recorder (13), baritone guitar (14), e-bow guitar (14)
  • Dave Fridmann—bass (2, 4, 12), Wurlitzer piano (2, 14), mellotron (2), piano (4, 12), chamberlin (12, 13), glockenspiel (13), vibraphone (14)
  • Joel Hamilton—Engineer
  • Polly Jean Harvey—voice (3, 7), electric guitar (3), piano (3), guitar (7)
  • Sophie Michalitsianos—Voice (6, 10, 12–14), bass (6)
  • Scott Minor—Drums (2–4, 6, 7, 10, 12, 14), orchestron (2), electronic birds (2), electronics (3, 5, 12, 13), Russian satellite (4), chamberlin (4), filtered drums (5), percussion (6, 12), Korg MS-20 keyboard (12), harmonium (14)
  • John Parish—bass (3), Casio keyboard (3), piano (7)
  • Nina Persson—voice (2, 5)
  • Miguel Rodriguez—drums (9)
  • Bob Rupe—bass (5, 10)
  • Jane Scarpantoni—cello (5, 10, 14)
  • Adrian Utley—Dictaphone (2), bass (7), Kitty-Cat guitar (8), fuzzy-ending bass (8)
  • Tom Waits—voice (8), big seed pod (8), metal things (8), train (8), piano (14)
  • Joan Wasser—violin (5, 10, 14), Wurlitzer piano (10)
  • Alan Weatherhead—orchestron (9), mellotron (9), chamberlin (9), lap steel guitar (9)
  • Margaret White—bass (9), violin (9)
  • Rex L. White—pedal-steel guitar (12)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ NME review
  3. ^ Pitchfork Media review
  4. ^ Rolling Stone review
  5. ^ Fernandez, Sofia M. (2010-12-30). "Remembering Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  6. ^ Laurence, Alexander (February 2002). "Sparklehorse: An Interview with Mark Linkous". Free Williamsburg. Retrieved 2012-06-27. 
  7. ^ Raphael, Amy (2006-09-28). "Amy Raphael talks to Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-06-27. 
  8. ^ Laurence, Alexander (February 2002). "Sparklehorse: An Interview with Mark Linkous". Free Williamsburg. Retrieved 2012-06-27. 
  9. ^ "Sparklehorse Goes Sonic." Retrieved from Rollingstone.com on March 17, 2008.
  10. ^ "Sparklehorse Debuts New Videos on Sundance Channel's Sonic Cinema". Music Industry News Network. 2001-10-26. Retrieved 2012-06-27. 

External links[edit]