New Sparklehorse record acclaimed to varying degrees

After five long years, Sparklehorse fans finally got their wish this week for a fourth album from Albemarle High School alum and former Fluvanna resident Mark Linkous. Titled Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain, it features collaborations with the likes of Tom Waits, Gnarls Barkley's Danger Mouse, and the Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd. The long-awaited follow-up to 2001's It's a Wonderful Life has generally been received well by critics, though some are more enthusiastic than others.

One of the more praiseworthy reviews came from Stephen M. Deusner of indie-rock online mecca Pitchforkmedia.com, who called it "a surprisingly unified whole as well as a powerful statement about death and life," and gave it a rating of 8.3 out of 10, making it one of Pitchfork's top-rated albums of the year.

British rock rag Q gave Dreamt 4 of 5 stars and named the release its Recommended Album of the Week in its Q Review podcast, saying, "While the lyrics on Dreamt for Light Years are still intimate and confessional, Linkous has swapped the melancholic alternative country genre for a gleaming new psychedelic sound."

Other critics have been complimentary but find that Linkous is, for the first time in his career, in a holding pattern. Says Allmusic.com's Heather Phares, "It all feels more streamlined and straightforward, which is a little bit disappointing considering how long the album took to arrive and how much Linkous' music evolved on the other Sparklehorse albums." Rolling Stone's Christian Hoard agrees in his 3 of 5 star review: "Seductive though Linkous' cushy, narcotic patter can be, his slower songs, including 'See the Light,' feel like they're floating in an ocean of sleepiness."

In only its fourth issue, the Hook ran a cover story about Linkous and the making of this album while the the musician was still living on his farm in Dillwyn. He has since moved to North Carolina, and has even gone so far as to make a "promotional video" for his adoptive home state featuring himself as a man-horse hybrid dressed in a suit.

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