Best of slow journalism – The sad and beautiful world of Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous


On the morning of March 6 2010, Mark Linkous woke up late and prepared to complete a house move. The tall, softly-spoken 47-year-old Virginian, who through his band Sparklehorse had released four acclaimed albums of fragile, dreamy and damaged pop music, began by moving the essentials – “a sunburst Gibson guitar, a brown Yamaha keyboard, an assortment of amps, some clothes.”

Later that day, his move almost completed, Linkous turned into an alleyway carrying an assault rifle, and shot himself in the heart. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Although Linkous had a devoted global fan base and many high-profile admirers – Tom Waits, Thom Yorke, PJ Harvey, the Flaming Lips and David Lynch were all musical collaborators – there hadn’t been anything substantial written about his life until now. Max Blau (who also wrote a brilliant long-form piece on another sadly departed songwriter, Jason Molina) spent over a year speaking to dozens of Linkous’s friends and fellow musicians about a life that was “pocked with addiction, chronic pain, and depression” – and his resulting article for Pitchfork is a fantastic and necessary piece of music writing.

There’s plenty of pain and sadness in the songs of Mark Linkous, but it’s also some of the most beautiful and genuinely uplifting music that you’ll ever hear. For fans, Blau’s impeccably researched and perfectly paced article offers plenty of new information on Linkous’ life and music; for newcomers, it’s the ideal introduction to Sparklehorse’s sad and beautiful world.

Max Blau’s article on Mark Linkous is available to read here

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