It's a Wonderful Life is the third studio album by American musical act Sparklehorse, released in August 2001 by record label Capitol/EMI. The album features appearances by Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, John Parish, Nina Persson and Dave Fridmann.
It was the band's most successful album commercially, selling over 63,000 copies.
|It's a Wonderful Life|
|Studio album by Sparklehorse|
|Released||August 8, 2001|
Mark Linkous recorded his first two albums, Good Morning Spider and Vivadixesubmarinetransmissionplot, in a small room inside his Virginia farm. There he worked by himself, providing all of the instrumentation and vocals for those albums. After the release of those albums, however, "the guy who hired me left [Capitol]," Linkous told Free Williamsburg Online Magazine in 2002, and his record label discouraged the solo-production process. As a result, It’s a Wonderful Life was the first Sparklehorse outing in which Linkous did not perform alone in his private studio. “I didn't want to play every instrument on every song,” said the songwriter. “I didn't want to be behind the control console the whole time. I wanted to have other people's brains and input involved.” Linkous played with a full band while recording It’s a Wonderful Life. He also worked with a wide array of guest musicians, which included PJ Harvey and Tom Waits.
Linkous was reportedly incredibly nervous about contacting Waits. In an interview with The Guardian, Linkous admitted he had to take five shots of whiskey before gaining the courage to call the famous singer-songwriter. During the phone call, the two men planned a meeting in California. The meeting was quite unusual and took place inside an SUV as the two men rode down a California highway. Within the car they discussed possible album ideas, their least-favorite animals, and their mutual disgust for turkey vultures. Waits went on to record the song “Dog Door” with Linkous on the album.
It’s a Wonderful Life was recorded years after Linkous’s near-fatal drug overdose in a London hotel room. The incident received a large amount of media coverage and was documented within several music magazines, including Rolling Stone and Spin. Linkous frequently had to answer questions about his overdose during interviews. He was also chastised by some critics for the exceedingly sombre themes in his work. The album’s title track is a melancholy ode to the beauties of life. The chorus has Linkous faintly whispering, “It’s a wonderful life,” over and over, on top of lush orchestration in addition to looping electronic textures. Linkous declared the song was a "fuck-you" to journalists who couldn’t forget about his brush with death, or see the beauty hidden within his songs.
All of the album's songs were made into music videos by various filmmakers, such as the Quay Brothers, Garine Torossian, Grant Gee, and Guy Maddin. These became the subject of the October 26, 2001, episode of the Sundance Channel series Sonic Cinema.
The Sonic Cinema: Sparklehorse episode included the following music videos, with their respective directors or talent.
|Los Angeles Times|||
|Under the Radar||9/10|
AllMusic called it Sparklehorse's "most open and direct work yet" and "a noticeably more focused effort. Though it lacks Good Morning Spider's sprawling brilliance, it's possibly Linkous' most effective, and affecting, collection of songs."
All tracks written by Mark Linkous, except where stated.
|1.||"It's a Wonderful Life"||2:59|
|4.||"Sea of Teeth"||4:29|
|6.||"King of Nails"||4:18|
|8.||"Dog Door"||Mark Linkous, Kathleen Brennan, Tom Waits||2:46|
|9.||"More Yellow Birds"||4:53|
|10.||"Little Fat Baby"||Mark Linkous, Vic Chesnutt||3:40|
|11.||"Devil's New" (excluded from European release)||3:32|
|13.||"Babies on the Sun" (The song "Babies on the Sun" ends at 4:37. After 3 minutes of silence, at 7:37 begins the hidden song "Morning Hollow".)||15:03|