FreeBeats: Sparklehorse’s Dark Night of the Soul

If you’re unemployed, like 9.1 % of the American workforce, or bankrupt, like General Motors, it may be hard to convince yourself to fork over $12.99 at Best Buy or iTunes for a CD. Recognizing that cash-strapped music fans are probably going to pirate their work anyway, more artists are releasing their work for free, hoping to earn goodwill and concert ticket sales instead of cash.

In the hopes that this recession-friendly distribution method will continue, Vox has decided to keep track of the year’s free releases as they come along. Remember, if you enjoy their music, be sure to patronize these artists by attending their show when they roll through whatever town you’re in.

Dark Night of the Soul by Sparklehorse

Featuring nine different guest artists (ranging from Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips to James Mercer of the Shins) and production from Danger Mouse, the visionary behind Gorillaz’s Demon Days and the trippy hip-hop-soul of Gnarls Barkley, Dark Night of the Soul is a moody blend of pensive ballads and bluesy melodies that might top indie or alt-rock charts, but it isn’t technically being released at all.


According to the band’s website, a dispute with their record label (EMI), is preventing them from releasing the music. Not willing to admit defeat, Danger Mouse decided to forego the traditional distribution method entirely and leaked the album himself. Though the website promises a “summer 2009” release date, the record can be streamed on NPR’s website, or found on most BitTorrent trackers or file-sharing services, making this one of the few albums you can legally download for free.

The band still hopes to make some money off of the release, though. Fans can purchase the album artwork, a 50-page booklet of photos inspired by the music from filmmaker David Lynch. Included in the package is a blank CD-R and a tongue-in-cheek message that Danger Mouse hopes fans are “lucky enough to hear the music, by whatever means.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time Danger Mouse has beefed with EMI. On The Grey Album in 2004, he mixed acapellas from Jay-Z’s The Black Album with beats made using unauthorized samples from The Beatles’ White Album, whose copyrights EMI owns. The label ordered him to cease and desist, causing an internet uproar and a public debate about the fair use of copyrighted material in the digital age.

Aside from being an innovative statement about digital music distribution in the 21st century, Dark Night of the Soul is really good music. Just remember to head over to www.dnots.com to pick up the David Lynch visuals (and the blank CD-R) after you’ve legally pirated it.

3 Comments on “FreeBeats: Sparklehorse’s Dark Night of the Soul

  1. One unpleasant facet of the new digital leakage era is the propagation of erroneous information. BitTorrent Trackers (your link) erroneously identifies Nina Persson as the artist on DNOT’s 11th track, “The Man Who Played God”. In fact, the author of the melody and lyrics, and the vocalist on that track, is Suzanne Vega. Nina Persson had nothing to do with it. But with digital leakage, there doesn’t seem to be any way to correct things.

  2. Did you even listen to the record? You mentioned the actual music in all of one sentence and the rest just reads like a Pitchfork news article. I know its the summer, but this is pretty lazy, man.

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