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Sparklehorse, Dreaming in the Belly of a Mountain For Good [3/09/2010 11:01:00 PM]:
Damn. I saw the horrible, terrible news yesterday, and I'm still somewhat stunned: Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse is dead, after shooting himself outside a friend's home.

I'm reeling, awash in sadness and anger at the same time; sad that Linkous thought things were so bad that he had to step off the stage permanently and angry that he'd leave his family, friends, and fans bereft like this. There're few things more selfish, to my mind, than suicide, and I'm having a hard time coming to grips with it.

I'm not going to claim to've known the guy personally, don't worry, but I do feel weirdly connected to him and his work, having listened to it and loved it for fifteen years. I happened upon a copy of the Sparklehorse "Hammering the Cramps"/"Spirit Ditch" 7-inch back in 1995 or 1996 (can't remember which, sorry), right out of college, and was immediately blown away by the eerie, dirty-sounding, yet hauntingly beautiful countrified psych-pop.

The debut album of Linkous' one-man band, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot, was a creaking, whispering, rambling mishmash of country, folk, pop, and little crufts of noise, and for me, at least, it was eye-opening. To me, Sparklehorse bridged the gap between Guided By Voices' rough-edged, catchy-as-hell pop and the Flaming Lips' swooning, primary-colored, high-voiced psychedelia -- it was strangely, gorgeously layered, something you could listen to over and over again and hear a new facet of the sound.

I only got to meet Linkous once, and that was by phone, back in 2006. I'm still not sure how I lucked into it, looking back. Some kind soul at his label at the time (Astralwerks) had sent his latest CD, Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain, so I'd emailed them just for the heck of it, to ask if there was any hope in hell of speaking with the guy.

Apparently not realizing how low-rent a publication they were talking to, the label folks set it up, and a few days later, I was calling Linkous at his home in the backwoods of western North Carolina. He was the nicest, most low-key guy, just sort of this apologetic country boy who made music and figured his career was going nowhere fast. He was surprised that people wanted to talk to him, to hear from him again, even though he'd fallen into a deep depression and had essentially walked away from music completely for several years. He was humble and grateful to be making music again.

It broke my heart, honestly. That this guy, who'd helped mold my love of music and showed me noisy, messy stuff could still be beautiful and sweet, would be so uncertain of himself that he figured nobody really wanted to hear it anymore... It was tragic, even then.

But things were on the upswing, it seemed like. He'd collaborated with the soon-to-be household name producer Danger Mouse on Mountain, and they already had plans to do more, which turned into Dark Night of the Soul -- it sounded amazing, but then got mired in legal bullshit and never saw a "real" release. Still, things were going pretty well, at least from my vantage point.

I guess they weren't going so well, though, from where Linkous stood.

Again, I can't claim to've been friends with the guy; all I know is that he and the music he made was pretty damn important to me, and now the music's all that's left. The funny thing is that although I've been listening to his albums over the past couple of days, they don't make me feel sad, not at all. Listening to songs like "Homecoming Queen" and "Gold Day", I can't help but smile.

So here's to you, man. I'm going to choose to celebrate what was and be happy for it. To that end, here're a few of my favorite Sparklehorse tracks:

Sparklehorse - "Hammering The Cramps"
Sparklehorse - "Someday I Will Treat You Good"
Sparklehorse - "Gold Day"
Sparklehorse - "Ghost In The Sky"

(I'm just posting 'em here by way of tribute, btw. If they need to be taken down, just let me know, and I'll remove 'em immediately.)

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