by Maya Singer
“My bones wish to escape/ And run along the alien expanse/ To collapse from the heat in a cartoonish heap/ To sleep, oh, to sleep ...”
Sparklehorse frontman and songwriter Mark Linkous’ voice is as sweet as it is weathered as he sings these lyrics from the 33-second “moment” “Box of Stars I.” Linkous possesses an amazing sensitivity to the vicissitudes of heart and mind, and a rare eye and ear for detail — his songs crystallize life’s passing moods. Appropriately, then, Good Morning Spider (the follow-up to Sparklehorse’s excellent debut, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot) is a changeable, difficult, beautiful and ultimately rewarding album, what with Linkous encompassing everything — fury, putrid heat, highway hypnosis, love and more — in his vision.
The worn yearning of “Box of Stars I,” for example, leads into “Sunshine,” which can only be described as the sonic expression of solace. Almost whispering, Linkous joins with Sofia Mitchalitsianos’ echoing vocals in the barest tendril of a harmony; Vic Chesnutt chimes in for the choruses, and softly strummed acoustic guitar, organ, occasional strings and oddball feedback play games behind the voices. “Sunshine” evokes childhood, romance and a warm doze in the afternoon all at once.
Spider opens with the punk fit “Pig”: “I wanna be a tough-skinned bitch but I don’t know how/ I wanna be a shiny new boy with a spongy brain ...” The words come fast and furious, distorted and disguised by seething guitars. Linkous doesn’t strike a balance between the extremes of “Sunshine” and “Pig.” With the exception of the Neil Youngish, relatively straightforward tracks “Maria’s Little Elbows” and “Sick of Goodbyes,” his songs are exquisite expressions of his states of mind. For this reason, much of Good Morning Spider is not immediately accessible — but song for song, the album is honest and artistically accomplished, and gives back more and more with each listen.