Sun Kil Moon
Tiny Cities


4.0
excellent

Review

by Andrew H. EMERITUS
April 13th, 2007 | 25 replies | 9,958 views


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

Review Summary: In a way that only he can, Mark Kozelek transforms Modest Mouse songs into beautiful acoustic folk ballads. With Tiny Cities, Kozelek displays a truly rare ability ability to not only transform songs stylistically, but to take the work of another artist a

Whether it be under the name of Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon or simply his own name, Mark Kozelek has always been fond of covers. With Red House Painters, Kozelek was prone to include various covers on his records (perhaps most notable was his cover of The Cars' "All Mixed Up" on Songs For a Blue Guitar) while on his own, he released What's Next to the Moon, an album consisting entirely of Bon Scott era AC/DC covers.

Which brings us to Tiny Cities, Kozelek's second album with Sun Kil Moon. Perhaps unlike anything he has previously done, Tiny Cities is an album of wildly transformed Modest Mouse covers. While Modest Mouse songs, in their original form, are often somewhat abrasive and noisy, Kozelek transforms them into acoustic folk ballads, typical of his style. The songs of Tiny Cities often feature little more than a lone acoustic guitar and Kozelek's voice, but there are tracks ("Neverending Math Equation", for example) that also showcase Sun Kil Moon in full band mode. Stylistically, Tiny Cities is some of the more minimalistic material that Kozelek has produced. In terms of tone, textures and production, it sounds more like Sun Kil Moon than any of Kozelek's other projects, but is on the softer side of his work; like "Glenn Tipton" or "Gentle Moon" from the group's debut. Drums are rare and electric guitars are more rare. The sparse arrangements feature Kozelek's voice high in the mix, which perfectly captures the imperfections of his voice (which, in turn, are what makes is so good). That's not to say it's raw or, on the other hand, especially polished. Perhaps the most apt word to describe the sound of Tiny Cities is 'lush', especially in the context of the more bare songs and the fingerpicked 12-string guitars that are often the sole backing for Kozelek's voice.

At this point, it's a given that Kozelek's treatment of covers is going to be impressive. What's most impressive about Tiny Cities, however, is the way that Kozelek has chosen a set of Modest Mouse songs that may seem arbitrary at first, but more thoughtful on subsequent examinations. Running through the entire album are the themes of travel, space, age and distance, which were strong themes on Ghosts of the Great Highway. A quick glance over the song titles reveals that these themes are present in just about every track; "Exit Does Not Exist", "Space Travel is Boring", "Trucker's Atlas", and so on. And so even more impressive than Kozelek's ability to reinterpret the original material to suit his style and artistic intent is his ability to take the material of other artists and to weave a concept throughout an album that he seems to be extremely concerned with. The result is an album of songs that feel like if they weren't originally written by Kozelek, then they should have been. For anyone unfamiliar with Modest Mouse, Tiny Cities may simply seem like an original piece of work from Sun Kil Moon. Even someone well acquainted with the work of Modest Mouse may think, for a while, that these are actually Sun Kil Moon songs. And in a way, they are Sun Kil Moon songs. When listening to Tiny Cities, the fact that these are someone else's songs can be a mere afterthought for the listener.

While Tiny Cities is a spectacularly beautiful album, it does have some minor shortcomings. Firstly, its 11 songs only clock in at half an hour, which is a little disappointing; an extra 10 minutes would make quite a difference. That said, the album does have a lot of replay value and playing it on repeat a couple of times is a nice experience. Secondly, the album is a little uneven in places. A couple of songs ("Dramamine" and "Convenient Parking"), while nice, don't contribute as well to the album as the rest of their counterparts.

While the songs of Tiny Cities may have been written by Modest Mouse, they become undeniably Kozelek's; stylistically, emotionally and thematically. A truly beautiful record, Tiny Cities creates a world where distance, loneliness and imperfection are met with comfort and understanding. While it may not be a typical tribute, Kozelek has taken the art of Modest Mouse and reinterpreted it to be deeply and utterly personal. And in the end, what greater tribute to someone else's art is there?


Pros
Beautiful arrangements
Perfectly produced
Interesting reinterpretations of Modest Mouse tunes

Cons
Too short

Recommended Tracks
Exit Does Not Exist
Space Travel is Boring
Four Fingered Fisherman
Ocean Breathes Salty

Final Rating: 4/5



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Comments:Add a Comment 
The Jungler
April 14th 2007



4827 Comments


I've been meaning to check out these guys/Red House Painters for quite some time. Maybe I'll check some out this weekend. I probably won't hear this for some time, despite your good word and the excellent selection of Modest Mouse.
Nice review, good to see you at it again.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
April 14th 2007



2125 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks man. I'm hoping to be doing a lot more reviewing over the next few weeks.

AlienEater
April 14th 2007



716 Comments


I'll get some other SKM or RHP before this even though I like Modest Mouse

Two-Headed Boy
April 14th 2007



4527 Comments


This sounds awesome.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
April 14th 2007



2658 Comments


Great review, dude.

pulseczar
April 14th 2007



2385 Comments


Nice review, definitely going to check this out.

Zebra
Moderator
April 14th 2007



2647 Comments


I'd love to hear some of these songs but this would only be good for about two or three listens.
Nice review bread

HotSalvation
April 14th 2007



258 Comments


I like the idea, but this guy's voice drags on me after awhile.
isn't there a song by him on the Elizabethtown ost?? I can't remember the name of it for the life of me, but I know it's him

br3ad_man
Emeritus
April 14th 2007



2125 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'd love to hear some of these songs but this would only be good for about two or three listens.


You'd be surprised.

trustxdialect
April 14th 2007



1502 Comments


Great review. I might check this out.

isn't there a song by him on the Elizabethtown ost

This has nothing to do with that, but Elizabethtown was a horrible film.

Modest Mouse
March 31st 2008



36 Comments


He lacks everything Modest Mouse has. Im pissed off that he covered their stuff and managed to ruin it so badly. Like where is the angst, the passion of Modest Mouse's music. This is just a dead version of their music. I see why he has to rip off other bands. He has no talent of his own. The only props i would give him is that he chose some of the stuff off their best album, "This is a long drive for someone with nothing to think about"; which I think is greatly underappreciated.


Sun Kill Moon more like Sun killed Modest Mouse

Doppelganger
March 31st 2008



3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I actually believed you for a second there.

SynGates
January 19th 2009



2467 Comments


is that guy kidding me

Zoo
January 19th 2009



3759 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

If he's kidding anyone, it's himself.

ilikeforests
October 26th 2009



328 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i'd give this a 2.5 but space travel is boring is fucking fantastic

Kashmir09
January 4th 2010



772 Comments


I completely disagree, Dramamine and Convenient Parking are my two favorite covers on here

Kashmir09
January 4th 2010



772 Comments


and wow Modest Mouse is an ignorant dick head (the user)

thebhoy
Emeritus
January 4th 2010



4459 Comments


I love Modest Mouse and I love Sun Kil Moon, but I don't know this just seems pointless to me. Not in the "hey this cool but pointless" kind of way though, more like the "hey lets remake Psycho shot for shot" kind of way.

Kashmir09
January 5th 2010



772 Comments


it's not a shot for shot remake though..it would be much weirder if a band of similar stature covered Modest Mouse songs, but he weaves a concept through someone else's songs much like the review says. His interprets already amazing Modest Mouse songs his own way, and takes an oft-goofy delivered lyric or vocal line from Isaac Brock and makes it beautiful

thebhoy
Emeritus
January 5th 2010



4459 Comments


yeah, I realize what I said was kind of an off analogy, but it more or less sums up my feelings on the album. It's like meh, I don't know why he did this.



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