Universal acclaim - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 17
  2. Negative: 0 out of 17
  1. This time, the music is even more haunted. The brittle keyboards and violins make for the sound of an Appalachian funeral. It's the O Brother, Where Art Thou? for the modern death-obsessed introvert.
  2. Magnet
    It's a Wonderful Life raises the bar already set high by fellow post-modern woodsmen types like Grandaddy and Mercury Rev. [#51, p.116]
  3. 90
    A reaffirming celebration of small details.
  4. Mojo
    This time Linkous lets his gift for fractured folk song to resonate without encumbrance from freaky noise slugs. The results are sensational. [Jul 2001, p.98]
  5. Essentially, 'It's A Wonderful Life', is an equally brilliant and perhaps more cohesive album, mixing an arcane guitar, string and keyboard based atmospheric tilt, with more fast-action, barrelling moments.
  6. With this heavy payload of imagery, it's a miracle that Sparklehorse's third album of backwoods blues hasn't ended up a junk shop of Southern Gothic clichés. Old dog Tom Waits even wades in, hollering like an incestuous uncle on 'Dog Door', while Linkous' rusty cabin music creaks insalubriously beneath. But that's just the first of many wonders of this exceptional record.
  7. Had 'It's A Wonderful Life' been recorded by anyone other than Sparklehorse, we could simply describe it as an amazing record before sitting back to bask in its splendour, but given everything that Mark Linkous has been through, that such a beautiful record not only exists but sounds so effortlessly graceful marks it out as a definite contender for album of the year.
  8. Ironically, the consistency of It's A Wonderful Life's dreamy, narcotic tone tends to detract from the consistency of its quality, in large part because the first few tracks set the bar so high.
  9. It's 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.
  10. A lot of what distinguishes Wonderful Life is its fragility. At its best, the music feels as though it could blow apart at any moment.
  11. The most focused Sparklehorse effort yet, the album flows along with the grace of a river occasionally stirred by a rapid or two.
  12. Alternative Press
    A lovely, delicate album marred only by a curious vocal idiosyncrasy... Linkous performs several of these songs in a near whisper... [Oct 2001, p.100]
  13. These 13 dusky ditties almost always enchant.
  14. Musing, eerie and oddly lovely, It's a Wonderful Life is almost minimalist - it captures fleeting moments in a few chords and peculiarly evocative phrases.
  15. Ultimately, the record is kept from wonderfulness by too much drowsy material--it lacks [Neil] Young's screwball conviction or the hallucinogenic intensity of the VU.
  16. Blender
    Too often, songs drift off into a fog of vague guitar atmospherics. [Aug/Sep 2001, p.130]
  17. Spin
    It's a Wonderful Life comes off like a Magical Soft Mystery Bulletin. Yet, those iridescent orchestrations seem to be covering for the underdeveloped dirges that dominate the album. [Oct 2001, p.127]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 27 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 24 out of 27
  2. Negative: 2 out of 27
  1. KellyW
    Apr 29, 2005
    Beautiful and delicate, yet dark and frightening. A absolute must for fans of Radiohead and Modest Mouse.
  2. May 23, 2019
    One of the greatest and saddest artists that exist and an amazing piece for the soul
  3. TimS
    Sep 24, 2005
    i love this album more than i love my girlfriend.the lyrics are like some kind of poetry written in a forest about a hundred years ago.