Everyone's favorite hyper-imaginative, alt-country- space-waltz folkster Mark Linkous returns to destroy rock forever with his third full-length disc. A bulk of the material was recorded/produced with Dave Fridmann of Tarbox Road Studio though Jon Parish worked on it in Spain and the rest by Linkous himself at his home studio in rural Virginia. The music and sound textures do not contain nearly as many schizophrenic bleeps and hallucinogenic bits of aural sandpaper as his previous albums did (but rest assured that the lyrical trippy factor is set higher than ever and makes up for it nicely). Instead, there is an incredible amount of three- dimensional clarity to the album, especially with Scott Minor's drums, which are extremely rich in tone, and Linkous' vocals sound as if they are being sung between your ears. Special appearances abound - Nina Perrsons of The Cardigans and femme-fatale PJ Harvey eerily vocalize from deep within the choral background as a type of mysterious female alter-ego response to Linkous. And lest we forget, there's "Dog Door", the sludgy electronic beat track that has Tom Waits giving his Southern cat-scat-like dying whininess through the telephone. It's A Wonderful Life is a masterpiece that deserves its own calendar. (www.sparklehorse.org)

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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