Sun Kil Moon – April
Mark Kozelek is a stickler for time and place. Rarely do his songs not reference a particular month, a time of year, a house, a street, a town, a city. The very first line sung on his latest offering under the Sun Kil Moon moniker is no exception: “I came up from under a warm sheet / into the bristling October.” From comfort to cold exposure – surely there’s a lesson in love there.
Teaming up again with bassist Geoff Stanfield and Anthony Koutsos (his Red House Painters drummer), Kozelek’s ‘April’ travels far and wide across America but in no discernable hurry. The tracks are long (most are over five minutes, the lengthier hitting double that) and in opener ‘Lost Verses’ it’s a wait until the drums and signature minimal hook drop in and a minute from the end until the track goes heavyweight.
But Kozelek has always seemed as happy wielding his electric as he is crafting some of the loveliest arpeggiated acoustic guitar around – a skill made clear on ‘Lucky Man’ and ‘Unlit Hallway’ (featuring Bonnie “Prince” Billy on backing vocals) and in the trance-like refrain of ‘Heron Blue’.
And yet here he gets better and better. ‘Moorestown’ rests on the interplay of the simplest of piano and guitar lines, leaving Kozelek to conjure up remembered scenes from parking lots and neighbourhoods as he follows a girl all over the States, city by city. It’s a heartbreakingly beautiful song and surely one of the best things he’s ever written.
Changing tone again, ‘Tonight the Sky’, with its sludgy progression and lazy drums is the kind of number you’d expect to hear live in a truckstop bar; a sublime Billy-accompanied chorus elevating the song far, far away from its trudging riff. That said, the droney closing section does make for a nice counterpoint to the prettier, acoustic work that surfaces in the majority of these songs.
But by the end of the lovely Spanish coda to closing track ‘Blue Orchids’ there’s little doubt that sitting alone with just an acoustic six string is the place Kozelek truly belongs, no matter how far he’s travelled. Maybe he’ll get back under those warm sheets one day.
Top tracks: ‘Unlit Hallway’, ‘Moorestown’, ‘Tonight the Sky’.
Released 31/03/08 on Caldo Verde