Tuesday, May 20, 2008

April - Sun Kil Moon


Sun Kil Moon
Caldoverde Records.

SCQ Rating: 72%
Wishlist Counterpoint: 78%

Despite the strange and isolated corners my love for music may often occupy, nothing brings me back to my roots like a solid folk record. Upon hearing its subtle moods, its careful strumming, I’m delivered back to my childhood afternoons cradled on the basement couch with my dad’s headphones blaring the music of the 70s. A youth of hearing the James Taylor records of my parent’s comes softly to mind as I listen to Mark Kozelek’s third album under the Sun Kil Moon moniker. Like what you can only expect from the most introspective singer songwriter, April is cloaked in unplugged minimalism and lyrical obscurities; its secrets seeping from repeated listens.

All the same, a Sun Kil Moon record can’t be summed up by the tag-word ‘folk’ alone. With eleven tracks settling at 74 minutes, April is prone to classic rock and slowcore comparisons just as convincingly, the latter clearly dealing with the more superficial issue of running-time. Enough genre-ambiguity ensures April its own territory to shine, and it’s for the best; the Leonard Cohen musings and Neil Young guitar-slaying of opener ‘Lost Verses’ is enough to make anyone give up deciphering how Kozelek might feel about what Dylan did at the Royal Albert Hall forty-odd years ago.

These songs are meant to be heard outside the concrete jungles we’ve grown in, words for the rural expanses you’ve only walked from the passenger seat. ‘The Light’, like all of the LP, is a tight meditation on the guitar riff and how it can breathe relief or stiffen to a tough snarl; Kozelek’s gift is writing a seven-minute song that consistently thrills based on such minimal compositions. Occupying the best of these quiet reflections is ‘Moorestown’s string-drenched play-by-play and ‘Like the River’ (which enlists the fabulous Bonnie Prince Billy on backing vocals).

That these songs rely on repetition also means that your initial reaction to a song’s first minute will likely also be your last. The backwoods eeriness of ‘Heron Blue’, for example, steers clear of April’s usual warmth and tires by the five-minute mark. Although each track lends a hand to April’s unshakably rustic atmosphere, a few dwell in their place for too long and risk reducing the record’s strengths.

In truth, I’ve been delaying this review for a month now, waiting for a weekend up north to properly live out April’s far-reaching introspection. The weathered sand dunes and rain-battered sand of unpredictable May should prove a capable cloud to soundtrack Sun Kil Moon after; the kind of nostalgic reminiscing too manly to accept a tissue over.

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