First delayed by legal wrangling, then indelibly marked by the suicides of co-creator Mark Linkous and contributor Vic Chesnutt, the album carried some heavy baggage when it finally came out last week.

Yet Brian Burton says he can separate the experience of listening to the album from the emotions he’s left with since Linkous’ death earlier this year. So when he hears his favorite cut, “Revenge,” and the way Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne lays down a heartbreaking vocal, the producer who works as Danger Mouse flashes to one of his happiest moments with his close friend.

“It’s just a great song,” Burton said in a phone interview last week. “There’s just something about it. And it makes me think of Mark a lot in a heavy kind of way, but I don’t get sad about it. I just remember the two of us, when we first heard what Wayne did with it, us celebrating and everything. It was really great.”

With it’s dark themes and haunting beauty, the album already cast a melancholy spell. Years in the making, it was highly anticipated and marked some of the best work in the very different careers of the men created it.

Yet viewed through the prism of real-life events, the album takes on deeper meaning. Linkous, who recorded and performed as Sparklehorse, and Chesnutt were critically acclaimed singer-songwriters who were destined to get their widest exposure yet upon the release of Dark Night.

Chesnutt, who forged a heralded and unlikely career following a car crash that left him mostly paralyzed, killed himself on Christmas after years of depression that included other suicide attempts. Linkous also dealt with depression and shot himself in March.

Burton said Linkous and Chesnutt examined the depths of their depression in their music, adding the kind of layers and complexity not often expected in pop music.

Many of the songs on “Dark Night” are sugarcoated meditations on life’s blacker moments featuring singers Julian Casablancas, Black Francis, Suzanne Vega, Nina Persson, Gruff Rhys, filmmaker David Lynch and others. Chesnutt’s contribution, “Grim Augury,” is a particularly harrowing hallucinatory vision of despair.

“When people are singing, there’s something behind what they’re saying,” Burton said of the album’s 13 songs. “They’re not just writing a tune and trying to get 99 cents on iTunes or something. There’s real things being talked about and said and really the artists have a lot going on with them as people.”

Linkous and Burton met six years ago when the producer mentioned his appreciation for Sparklehorse to a group of people that coincidentally included Linkous’ manager, who sent the musician a copy of Danger Mouse’s breakthrough, The Grey Album.

The two struck up a friendship over the phone and Burton decided to help Linkous finish 2006’s Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain.

It seemed like an odd pairing. Burton is best known for being half of the duo Gnarls Barkley (who had the monster hit “Crazy”) and a string of eclectic projects. Linkous produced music his longtime friend and collaborator Scott Minor called “true Southern gothic” that was highly influential yet inhabited the fringe of independent music.

The two hit it off while working on four Dreamt For Light Years songs and decided to start a new project together. This time, though, they would contribute ideas 50-50 and would invite in singers, ending the need for Linkous to sing – a chore he hated.

The format gave Linkous a kind of freedom he’d never experienced before.

“It’s interesting because with Sparklehorse music he seemed very self-conscious about pop songs, having too many,” Minor said. “He was always after the perfect pop song but was always reluctant to release pop songs as Sparklehorse. It seemed to me the good Dark Night stuff was like his perfect opportunity to just go pop crazy, and it seemed to be pretty much what he did, which I thought was fantastic.”

The album moves from the driven guitar rock of Casablancas’ infectious “Little Girl” to Black Francis’ muscular snarl on “Angel’s Harp” to Vega’s angelic “The Man Who Played God” in a seamless way, and includes two intriguing vocal contributions from Lynch – the spacey “Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It)” and the hypnotic “Dark Night Of The Soul.”

Burton didn’t want to detail the entanglements that held up release of the album, but said so much work went into creating it that there was never a question it would come out. But it was delayed for some time and a companion book of photographs by Lynch was issued with a blank CD. The album leaked out and eventually ended up streaming on NPR’s music website.

The legal hurdles were finally cleared by last January, so Linkous knew it would be released and was excited. He had almost wrapped work on a new album – with only the vocals left to cut – and was relocating to Knoxville to live at Minor’s house when he committed suicide.

That album sits in limbo now while Linkous’ family and friends try to recover from his death.

“He seemed to be doing much better, just in the last couple of months, which is why it was really such a shock,” Minor said. “But we’ve kind of come to the conclusion that that was a sign that we were unaware of at the time that he had kind of made up his mind that he was ready to leave this world, I think, and just sort of let a lot of stuff go. He seemed happier but he actually wasn’t and we just didn’t know.”