Staff Trax: Sparklehorse, Priestess, Amelia Curran, and The Delfonics
Sparklehorse - "It's a Wonderful Life"
When word was Tweeted and Facebook-ed around Saturday night that Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous had committed suicide, I was truly taken aback. I'd been long since seduced by Linkous' sometimes gritty, sometimes ethereal instrumentation and haunting lyrics, as well as his ability to collaborate with so many incredibly talented artists (PJ Harvey, Nina Persson, Tom Waits, David Lynch and Danger Mouse to name a few) without sacrificing his creativity and originality. Sparklehorse's music is something with which I've associated many a memory, and it's saddening to find out that there won't be more of it to use in my life's soundtrack. (Though, fingers crossed, let's hope they release that album Linkous was working on and that the Dark Night of the Soul release estimated for summer goes off without a hitch.) --Merritt Martin
If you were familiar with Mark's history, his death doesn't come as a huge surprise. But if you were familiar with Mark's music, the news is probably received with a great deal of sadness. Dark Night of the Soul--last year's collaboration with Danger Mouse that got held up because of label complications--is finally scheduled for release in a couple months. Here's a video of a good song with what now seems to be an especially ironic title. --Doug Davis
Priestess - "Time Will Cut You Down"
I've always had a lot of stoner rock in my diet, but it's best taken in small tokes, lest it get a little repetitive. A little goes a long way, if you will. One of the finest moments of the genre is this bitter, dark, heartbreak-sludger by Priestess called "Time Will Cut You Down." No, I haven't had my heart broken (recently). I just really love how perfectly this song rocks and conveys emotion. Play it loud for maximum effect. --Alan Ayo
Amelia Curran - "Scattered and Small"
The best music just seems to fall at your feet. As a reviewer, you see so much product, so many discs and links to downloads. In 2006, Canadian singer/songwriter Amelia Curran released War Brides, her fourth album of compelling country-folk. That effort landed in my mailbox and I remember liking it upon first listen. Especially alluring was the album's opening cut, "Scattered and Small." I remember trying to find a way to write about Curran, but one thing led to another and the disc was a casualty of my lack of organizational skills. Well, hopefully, in a small way, I can rectify the situation today. Curran has since released another great record (Hunter Hunter), but this song still gets me in the gut every time. --Darryl Smyers
The Delfonics - "Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time?"
Ever since I saw Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, I've loved its soundtrack. I'd even go so far as to say I liked that soundtrack more than any of his other film soundtracks (although, I'll admit, the music for Kill Bill Vol. 1's fight scenes can't really be beat). Songs like Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street" and The Delfonics' "Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time?" leap to mind as some of the best tracks on this collection of R&B classics. --Eric Grubbs