Release Date: May 27, 2016
Record label: Caldo Verde Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Any lover of music for its emotional healing powers would tell you that there are times when all you want to listen to, and all you can really handle right then, is transparency through a voice and a piano in the background. These favorite selections of the enigmatic Mark Kozelek demonstrate a wonderful taste in heartfelt songs that all resonate on this level. .
Following a series of increasingly autobiographical (not to mention self-referential) Sun Kil Moon albums, as well as spoken word collection Dreams of Childhood, Mark Kozelek went back to basics with the aptly titled Sings Favorites. Covers have always been an integral part of Kozelek's career, ranging from the deconstructed classic rock songs that dotted Red House Painters albums during the '90s to his full-length tributes to AC/DC and Modest Mouse to his long-promised album of Christmas carols, which finally arrived in 2014. Sings Favorites mostly consists of familiar oldies sung plainly and accompanied by piano, as well as occasional backing vocals from Will Oldham, Low's Mimi Parker, Slowdive's Rachel Goswell, and a few other guests.
Whether you're anti- or pro-Kozelek, the Ohio singer/songwriter's outspokenness over the past few years have proven to be, at the very least, distracting. That may be why it's so disarming to hear the Sun Kil Moon frontman take on an album's worth of popular and beloved songs. The fact that Kozelek, mostly known for composing on acoustic guitar, made Mark Kozelek Sings Favorites strictly on the piano helps separate this material from his previously released cover albums.
Cover songs have long been a crucial part of Mark Kozelek’s work. In the days of Red House Painters, Kozelek recorded devastating interpretations of songs by Kiss, Paul McCartney, and even Francis Scott Key to prove just how widely applicable his brand of melancholy was. His selection of covers—often picked straight from the classic-rock songbook—drew a clear line from his sepia-toned shoegaze to golden-era '70s radio, culminating in his curation of a John Denver tribute album at the turn of the millennium and his ensuing move toward more straight-ahead singer-songwriter material under the Sun Kil Moon moniker.
Even in his ugliest moments, Mark Kozelek has always treated the music he loves with sanctity. In fall of 2015, he took to opening concerts with a beautiful a cappella version of Andy Williams’ “Moon River,” all while still reeling from (and still commenting on) the backlash from his gross comments toward Guardian writer Laura Snapes just a few months earlier. The shows were a strange hybrid of naked vulnerability and I’m-kidding-but-not-really rants directed at his most vocal critics.