Saturday, May 1, 2010

Album Review: Sun Kil Moon - April

Mark Kozelek’s first album of original material in nearly 5 years was released in April 2008. The album doesn’t break any new ground, Kozelek has been fairly single-minded in his vision since his Red House Painters days. The album starts somewhat underwhelmingly with 2 fairly mediocre tracks (for him), though The Light features a nice buzzing Neil Young-esque guitar tone. Lucky Man kicks the quality up a notch. It has Kozelek’s peerless finger-picking to the forefront with a very fine melody, backed up by his characteristically lazy vocals.

Unlit Hallway is a lighter track, evocative of lazy summer evenings with its languid stride. Again the guitar is quite fine, and the chorus features pleasant backing vocals here from Bonnie Prince Billy. Even better is the moment about halfway through when a banjo enters, merging perfectly with the rest of the music. Heron Blue is far more austere-sounding, with delicately picked classical guitar over Kozelek’s lower register vocals. The guitar in the bridge is devastatingly pretty.

Totally different is track 8, Tonight the Sky, which is 10 minutes of electric guitar heaven in the style of Crazy Horse with a great dirty distorted guitar riff. The track is undoubtedly self-indulgent but lopes along very pleasingly. The track doesn’t feel anything like as long as it is, indeed there air-guitar moments all over this track, particularly as the bridge reaches its thrilling climax. I was lucky enough to hear Kozelek play this track live with his band and it didn’t disappoint.

Tonight in Bilbao is another long track at over 9 minutes, and is basically a travelogue set to more lovely guitar work. Some gorgeous strings enter the song about halfway through which adds to an already great track.

One of the best is saved for last. Blue Orchids is another late summer evoking track set to beautiful classical guitar. The midsection of this is quite something to behold, while the closing few minutes is heartbreakingly beautiful as Kozelek laments a departed lover with some beautiful imagery, singing “soft light pours into the room, fingers glide over my face…. how could I walk these old dim halls again, how could I leave this room… piano music weeps quietly” over a magical addictive guitar part. It’s quite lovely and a great way to end the album.

One of the finest albums of the last few years, it won’t convert naysayers to Kozelek’s work but is one for his fans to embrace and enjoy.