Sun Kil Moon, April

Sun Kil Moon, April

Mark Kozelek’s sound has become his language, the way he sets himself apart from emulation and the derivatives that seem so common these days. It typically takes three chords to recognize a song as being a Sun Kil Moon composition, and there is a comfort in that, something like warm marshmallows eaten under a pine tree in November or half-drunk conversations with friends on a Sunday. Something simple, something nostalgically longed-for — this is the feeling of a Sun Kil Moon song.

And no other band or musician I can think of can do it with as much consistency and ease as can Kozelek. He’s always given us transcendentally simple yet enigmatically literary songs (think David Mitchell writing narratives about the landscapes of New Jersey, if he would ever do such a thing, which is he probably wouldn’t, but still…) that beg for a re-listen, and this, his third release under the moniker Sun Kil Moon (which is just him, basically), is no different.

April is actually only the second original Sun Kil Moon record (not including Tiny Cities, Kozelek’s take on Modest Mouse), and it’s a perfect extension of the hypnotism found on his first release, Ghosts of the Great Highway. There is something different about these songs, though — they’re much more epic, much more lilting, and much more mature. On first listen, April does not have as much immediacy as Ghosts; no longer, it seems, is Kozelek trying to construct radio-friendly singles that will find a large audience (think back to a time you heard a Sun Kil Moon song played on the radio…yeah, they’re not, and Kozelek is starting to realize that, and his songs are all the better because of it). These songs sound like they go together narratively — the disparate feel of Ghosts can’t be found here, and that makes this record one that gets better with each listen.

The record grabs you with the very first song, “Lost Verses,” a ten-minute jaunt through the dreamscape of emotional defeatism; it reads as an ethereal love letter to the ghosts that reside in Kozelek’s sometimes tragic imagination. Kozelek is a storyteller, and his stories are original pieces of emotional relatability — there seems to be a bit of all of us in each of his songs, which is what has made him a cultish figure in the indie-pop zeitgeist (if there is such a zeitgeist).

Each song on April seems to play off the one before it — “The Light” and “Lucky Man” follow the lead of “Lost Verses” by drawing the listener into a place of seemingly recognizable lyrical and musical amenity (as found on Ghosts), only to push them to the brink of irrevocable discomfort by the time “Heron Blue” starts. “Moorsetown” sounds like a B-side from Ghosts and acts as the climax of the album before “Harper Road” gives the audience hope that maybe Sun Kil Moon is turning optimistic (no one but Mark Kozelek can make the line “I’ll always find you stretched out like an orange tabby” sound so relevant), only to end with two songs that sound like twilight, “Tonight in Bilbao” and “Blue Orchids.”

With the brilliantly multi-layered April, Mark Kozelek is putting himself firmly into the picture of artists that matter, and not a minute too soon.

(Caldo Verde Records -- http://www.caldoverderecords.com/; Sun Kil Moon -- http://www.sunkilmoon.com/)
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Review by . Review posted Wednesday, April 16th, 2008. Filed under Reviews.

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