They used to say, and it’s probably still true, that record producers received so many speculative tapes or cd’s that if you didn’t hook them in 30 seconds your cherished little baby would be filed under “Bin” about 5 seconds later. I confess that I can be a bit like that, especially with genres that I’m not really fond of. The Web means that there is so much music available your musical efforts must have an immediate impact if you intend to stop your listener moving on without so much as a by-your-leave.
I first came across Mark Kozelek a few years ago when someone recommended his album “April” to me. I played it and listened. Didn’t quite get it – but I was intrigued. There was something flitting through the arrangements that insisted I try again. So I did, and with each listening the music offered up something more, and when I play that album today it still does. Testimony to well written and captivating music.
I’ve been backwards and forwards with Mark Kozelek since then, solo and with his band incarnation of Sun Kil Moon, and it has been a journey of great pleasure and discovery. His music is often simple with frequently repetitive guitar patterns laying down layers through which he weaves his intimate lyrics. In all, a colourful tapestry that welcomes you in.
His latest offering, “Among the Leaves” (Caldo Verde Records) under his band name Sun Kil Moon, still carries the Kozelek hallmarks of simple rhythms and patterns and lyrical intimacy, but this time, there is a new lightness of touch.
His nylon string arpeggios are sweet and dancing. His voice has a gentle warmth but also an edge. I particularly like the way he will occasionally double up his voice yet separate it into either speaker. A Kozelek wrap-around.
The track titles suggest diary entries. “I know it’s pathetic but that was the greatest night of my life” – “The Moderately Talented yet attractive young woman vs. The Exceptionally Talented yet not so attractive Middle Aged Man” – “ Not much rhymes with everything’s awesome at all times” .
The title song, “Among the Leaves” , has a wonderful shuffle feel with a viola refrain that just makes you want to sway with your arms wrapped around your girl. The lovely melody belies the thoughtful lyric of an unknown homeless girl he’d like to help. A great song.
The only downside is that he’s clearly pissed at the UK ( “UK Blues” appears in two variations) which doesn’t auger well for future tours. Oh well, maybe we can change his mind.
So, try “Sunshine in Chicago” , a song of reflection and wit, and if you like it, try the rest. It won’t kill ya and you just might start your own Sun Kil Moon journey, and that can’t be bad, can it ?
8 thoughts on “Album Review: “Among the Leaves” – Sun Kil Moon”
All artists have deep emotional wells to draw from, don’t they? Maybe he’ll resolve his feelings for the UK soon… If he wants to tour badly enough, that is!
I hope so.
I liked “Among the Leaves” but the version of “UK Blues” that I heard sounded like a dirge. From the lyrics, I would suppose he meant it that way. Seriously sad/bad mood. I hope he gets to have better experiences in your fair country soon.
Yes, he can come across dirge-like so he’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But when he hits the spot I think he’s great……and at least he’s trying something different. Glad you had a go.
Thanks very much for introducing me to this thoughtful, immaculate talent.
As you say, with a tidal wash of music on the internet I find myself relying more and more on the considered recommendations of others to keep my passion for new music alive. Thanks again Mr Monkey
Thanks RR, glad you liked what you heard. Pull up “April” on your Spotify. It’s great.
I love that you’ve owned up to doing the dreaded quick-listen-and-out-it-goes thing too. Every time I do it I know I’m giving some other artist the treatment I dread myself, but… there is so much out there, what can anyone do? And I’m sure the good people among producers, editors, etc, feel the same way.
Love the track titles. I’m really liking “Among the Leaves” too, though it did take a minute — if you hadn’t recommended I might have just closed the player in the first thirty seconds. 🙂 Then I would have missed that moment where I sat up and thought, hey wait, this is great! I’m with Ré on “UK Blues”; I love the lyrics but found the listening as painful as the experiences he describes (and maybe that’s the point)!
As we travel I’ve been trying to kind of build up a soundtrack for each place. In Toronto it’s a mix of the live music we heard, and what our host had on her shelves (which was a good, large collection). In Edinburgh so far it’s been the groups who are coming for the jazz festival, whose music I’ve been browsing via YouTube.
Glad you get some of Mark Kozelek anyway. I understand he falls under the label “Low” if that says anything. Unfortunately I think that anyone who is creative these days has to make an immediate impact in some way. I guess the trick is doing it so that your audience stays around.
The idea of a soundtrack to your travels sounds great. What a good one!
Fi and I used to buy a tasteful (honest) Christmas tree decoration from wherever we went. Then each Christmas it would be ” Oh do remember…” ” We got this one in…” as we decorated the tree and it was fun. Lost ’em though in moving house. That was fate telling us to get a (new) life.