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. Throughout Kozelek's career arc, it's possible to that emotion becoming more and more resigned to the fact of its own existence. This was best demonstrated on one of the very best Red House Painters releases Ocean Beach
, and later on Kozelek's first album as Sun Kil Moon, Ghosts of the Great Highway
. 2005's Tiny Cities
took things even further by stripping back the instrumentation to an essentially acoustic configuration.
sticks with the acoustic theme, albeit with a couple of warm, clean electric guitar tones, but none of the Kevin Shields meets Crazy Horse tones that Ghosts of the Great Highway
's "Salvador Sanchez" gave us (though "Tonight the Sky" does kick things up a notch). And even if April
really does nothing new for Kozelek, it does throw us a few bells and whistles in the form of guest vocalists Will Oldham (Bonnie 'Prince' Billy), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie, The Postal Service) and Eric Pollard. The subtle banjo on "Unlit Hallway" is also somewhat a-typical. But really, it's Kozelek's voice in all its imperfect glory that makes April
(and indeed all of his other work) as wonderful as it is. Kozelek's voice is fractured; it occasionally cracks, misses notes and has a very narrow range, but is all the better for it.
If there's an easy way to sum up what is so appealing about Kozelek it's that he seems so lost in his art, so intent on baring his soul and communicating those emotions that are central to his work that things like technique are mere tools. Attempts at radical changes in sound are ditched in favour of honesty. April
may not be the most original record released this year, or even in Kozelek's own catalogue, but it's an honest and beautiful reflection of the soul of its creator. In that regard, it's difficult to imagine how anyone, long time fan or newcomer alike, could possibly want anything more.
Tonight the Sky