Mark Linkous is a perfect anomaly, a literate, slightly seedy songwriter whose best work exposes an aching beauty which triumphs over his darker instincts. Over the course of four full-length efforts under the Sparklehorse moniker, released leisurely over the past decade, Linkous has created an uncompromising body of work that remains boldly unclassifiable. Certainly indebted to Appalachian folk and alt-country, Linkous' songs mix in unexpected elements of trip-hop and lo-fi industrial noise, often played and recorded on homemade or broken-down equipment.

On Dreamt, Linkous continues his magnificent obsession with his own phobias and relating them with dark, obscure imagery. The overall tone is slightly more upbeat than 2001's It's a Wonderful Life, Linkous' maudlin but brilliant magnum opus of quiet desperation. Songs such as "Don't Take My Sunshine Away," "Ghost in the Sky" and "Knives of Summertime" break little new ground but actually shine by employing more coherent and conventional structures.

Linkous examines loneliness and remorse with flickers of hope while still remaining true to his past alliances with noted oddballs (and influences) Tom Waits and Wayne Coyne. "If you were a horse, I could help you with your chains," Linkous sings on "Shade and Honey," tossing about mixed metaphors and resurrecting past fixations as the song settles into a standard, nearly Beatlesque groove. By no means a sell-out, Dreamt is the closest Linkous has ever come to being relatively regular, subversively camouflaging his more menacing inclinations.



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