Release Date: Apr 1, 2008
Record label: Caldo Verde
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
If there's anyone you can rely on to stay essentially the same whenever they release a new record, it's Mark Kozelek. In the past 20 years, Kozelek's brand of reflective folk has gone relatively unchanged, even with the change of band name (from Red House Painters to Sun Kil Moon) and his covering of artists from AC/DC to Modest Mouse. But what's more important than Kozelek's aesthetic is the melancholic, reflective emotion that accompanies each and every release.
Sun Kil Moon's 'April' is clearly a landmark record for principle member Mark Kozelek as well as the year 2008. Where 'Ghosts of the Great Highway' used childhood memories and old boxing heroes to define Kozelek's confessions it seems like with 'April' he has retreated back to his honestly bare beginnings. Musically, this is definitely the most varied Sun Kil Moon record, lots of electric guitars as well as guest vocalists and an obvious debt to Neil Young.
If you’re looking for variety, look elsewhere. Almost every song begins and ends in the same moderately slow tempo, includes some variation of fingerpicked or delicately strummed guitars, and features Mark Kozelek’s understandably haunted vocals over the top. Did I mention the songs are long? They take a while to never really get going, but that’s clearly the intent.
Mark Kozelek has been turning over the same obsessions for so long and with such rigor that on his new record he creates a kind of nostalgic feedback loop. Lyrics about “growing up Ohio mornings, sleeping in late” (“Lucky Man”) and the ghosts of departed lovers following him down halls (“Unlit Hallway”) reach evocatively back, both to specific moments in his catalog as well as to the memories signified. There’s never been an especial breadth to Kozelek’s music, nor has there needed to be, but an unmistakable break did occur when the Red House Painters left 4AD.
One of the key elements that made Sun Kil Moon’s 2003 album Ghosts Of The Great Highway so remarkable was Mark Kozelek’s fallen-angel tenor juxtaposed with a sometimes ugly, sometimes triumphant wall of big, Southern-seasoned guitar. For the LP’s proper follow-up (let’s just pretend the Modest Mouse covers record from 2005 never happened, shall we?), the trick is mostly set aside, meaning April has more in common with the introverted side of Kozelek’s Red House Painters than, say, Crazy Horse. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.