Release Date: Nov 4, 2014
Record label: Caldo Verde Records
Genre(s): Holiday, Pop/Rock, Holidays, Christmas, Carols
You could already write a book on the year Mark Kozelek has had. His deadpan persona has left many wondering if all of his controversial remarks were signs that he's gone "full-grump" or just sharpened his black comedy stylings. But with his career experiencing a sudden revitalization thanks to his latest and frankest Sun Kil Moon album, Benji, Kozelek has added to his big year with an album of Christmas carols.Of course, it's not a surprise to hear Kozelek sing carols; he's released versions of "White Christmas" and "Little Drummer Boy" before.
And so this is Christmas, and what has Mark Kozelek done? If you’ve kept abreast of the 47-year old’s antics this year – he dismissed an audience in North Carolina as “fucking hillbillies” and started a beef with The War On Drugs by labelling the Philadelphia band “beer commercial lead-guitar shit” at a festival in Ottawa in September – you might be surprised to learn that it’s not writing a song about what The War On Drugs might like to do to him on the 12th day. Nor has he reinterpreted that other time-honoured Noël classic as ‘O Little Town of Fuckin’ Hillbillies’. The Sun Kil Moon frontman may revel in the role of indie-rock’s great white grinch, but as ‘Sings Christmas Carols’ proves, he’s no more immune to the spirit of the season than his furry green counterpart was.
Leave it to Mark Kozelek to outdo Charlie Brown in sad-sappery vis-à-vis the holidays. Kozelek, notorious blockhead of 2014 indie-rock Internet trolling, himself naughty enough in his indictments of "beer-commercial guitar" to earn lumps of coal in his stocking (or a medal?), opens up this set of straightforward acoustic Christmas fare with "Christmas Time Is Here," somehow making it even more dour than the weird bipolar slant of melancholy rife in the Peanuts holiday canon. It works.
If there is ever an indie rock remake of How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Mark Kozelek would get the title role hands down (Annie Clark as Cindy Lou Who, anyone?). This was a banner year for Kozelek in both music making and in showcasing his cactus-like cuddliness, capitalizing on two different instances of offhand misanthropy. While both coverage of his calling a crowd “fucking hillbillies”—and the t-shirt it bred— and his ongoing bullying of War on Drugs mocked the ludicrousness of Internet flame wars, Kozelek’s methods were potentially alienating to some.
Timing is everything. We’ve known for a while that Mark Kozelek was going to be releasing a Christmas album before the end of the year, but for much of that time Kozelek was riding a wave of goodwill following the release of (the still very good, even if I’ve stopped bringing it up at parties) Benji. Now Sings Christmas Carols finally comes out and it feels like an unwanted present from the obnoxious uncle you try and avoid at family gatherings.
Mark Kozelek, Flaming Lips (“tabbed,” above), Over the Rhine, Blind Boys of Alabama, Farmer Jason, Ol’ Blues Eyes and more: not just another tab in the ocean, we return to the holiday theme well one final time. At least until next year. Ho-ho-HO, bitches! BY THE BLURT CRÜE Ed. note: We did a wrap-up of recently-issued seasonal albums in 2012 and, against all predictions, it was well-received.