Sun Kil Moon
Common As Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood


3.3
great

Review

by Jordan M. STAFF
February 21st, 2017 | 78 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: You gotta have a vague rock song in your catalog that everyone can sing along.

It’s difficult to assess the greatness of “War On Drugs: Suck My Cock” in retrospect, understanding that were it not for that humorous ode to, ‘all you rednecks,’ that can, ‘shut the fuck up,’ we wouldn’t be in the position today of having to listen to Mark Kozelek transform his variety of miserable Americana into an avant-garde, dad rap fiasco. Although originally a one-off joke, Kozelek’s curmudgeonly behaviour gave way to one of his best songs, fusing his downbeat, worn out folk to lyrics acting as an indictment of coastal liberalism’s worst instincts. Unfortunately, as opposed to the nuanced storytelling and subtlety of Benji, this mode of modernist, narcissistic rambling came to bear the greatest influence on Kozelek’s compositions yet and, as in Universal Themes, he eventually abandoned the pretence of singing altogether. Not that this made for bad songs or albums, per se; instead it made Sun Kil Moon far more frustrating, difficult, and cantankerous fare, motivated by solipsistic observations rather than worldly affairs. Despite some course correction, Kozelek's still the same songwriter he's always been, acting with as much humour, insight, and drama as he does error.

True to form, Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood Red is a two-hour, stream of consciousness trip across Trump’s America, David Bowie, and internet hoaxes. Far from Universal Themes- or even Kozelek’s work with Justin Broadrick, which supplanted traditional balladry in favour of shoegaze- this feels like Sun Kil Moon’s purest moment yet. Musically, Kozelek and his revolving-door lineup of session musicians provide a certain discreteness that allows Kozelek’s words ample space to explore the minutiae of the mundane. However, as the album progresses across its generous runtime, stories become grating, and the digestible becomes unpalatable. In part, this long slide towards spoken-word delivery originated in some form on Among the Leaves, where Kozelek began singing in a lower register, and his words became slightly more entangled in references and other random specifics. But, by way of an album like Benji, it culminated in songs like “Carissa;” a tender, loving portrait of bizarre and unjust situation; importantly, it also took the shape of a contemporary folk song. Here though, the lyrical particulars have been expanded upon at the cost of the music itself. Though the sort of geographic and societal detail he gives to Portugal and Ohio are akin to James Joyce in depth and understanding, they can become grating when rambled over plodding, minimalist folk extending well beyond the 10-minute mark.

Part of the ongoing issue with Kozelek’s music is that, devoid of recognizable melody and so heavily indebted to narrative, there’s very little room for accessibility. Of course, one might argue that this is inherently not a problem, and in fact Sun Kil Moon is suppose to alienate so that it can thrive on its own mode of storytelling, and to an extent that is true. But, given the success that is album opener “God Bless Ohio,” an at least semi-accessible detailing of middle-American realness and, ‘walks along the path of the Tuscarawas Street,’ it can be jarring when Kozelek simply devolves into long-winded diatribes, as in the monological breaks of “I Love Portugal” and “Philadelphia Cop.” Still, the likes of “Vague Rock Song” and “Seventies TV Show Theme Song” make the second disc utterly essential, whilst some of Kozelek’s verbosity renders prettier moments duller. In an interview with Conor Oberst, Kozelek says that he is, ‘a realist and I don’t take life for granted.’ It explains his eye for detail and knack for storytelling, filling every bar with a graceful necessity that would be more becoming of the written-word. As a writer of the English language, Kozelek gets perfect marks; as a writer of songs, the jury is still out.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
February 21st 2017


18396 Comments


it happening

Digging: Xiu Xiu - Girl with Basket of Fruit

DoofusWainwright
February 21st 2017


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'As a writer of songs the jury is out'



Well, he has written about a few hundred conventional songs so everyone should have reached a verdict on those by now :/

ABjordanMM
February 21st 2017


1710 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Over half way through this thing and it's surprisingly consistent for how long it is.

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 21st 2017


29523 Comments


Never understood this guy's success. Gave this a quick listen and sounds like mostly more of the same; going to continue to avoid.

Digging: Copeland - Blushing

DoofusWainwright
February 21st 2017


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'Never understood this guy's success'



Never liked 'Rollercoaster'? Or 'Down Colourful Hill'? Or 'Ocean Beach'? Or 'Ghost of the Great Highway'? Or 'April'?



Some incredible 'conventionally song based' albums in that lot.



Then you have 'Benji' which is similar to this and just incredible.



Sowing listen to the t/t from 'Among the Leaves' and tell me it isn't perfect. Then do the same with Red House Painters classic 'Have you Forgotten'. Listening to some RHP/SKM I'd say is essential for any fan of this sort of music, to dig Sufjan and not explore some Kozelek is tantamount to indie folkster treason

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 21st 2017


29523 Comments


Ok to be clear I started listening at Benji

DoofusWainwright
February 21st 2017


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's just the idea that he's some johnny-come-lately who's come up with a gimmick that I'm reading everywhere.



'Why can't he just write songs?'



He's done about 20 album's worth lol



He's done every type of folk album imaginable, every type of collaboration imaginable, he's covered everyone from Kiss to AC/DC to Modest Mouse (an entire album's worth in that case)...he decided to try something no one else is attempting and it's genius. All power to him.

DoofusWainwright
February 21st 2017


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

He may not be an absolute virtuoso but he is also quite nifty with the guitar - but again, he's also gone as guitar focused as he probably wanted to push that angle on Admiral Fell Promises.



He's kind of done it all.

Piglet
February 21st 2017


7814 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

whats so good about ohio anyway

NorthernSkylark
February 21st 2017


9063 Comments


^ that.

Digging: Ben Howard - Heave Ho

DoofusWainwright
February 21st 2017


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sure Mark's got another ten songs about Ohio rattling about in his head

dreamgazing
February 21st 2017


1293 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

it's okay

Jimmy
February 21st 2017


727 Comments


SowingSeason - listen to the first track or two off of Ghosts of the Great Highway and see what you think. I'm not a fan of his newer work, but his older stuff may as well be a different guy compared to the old.

Jimmy
February 21st 2017


727 Comments


And Piglet, Ohio is great I like it a lot.

ABjordanMM
February 21st 2017


1710 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is amazing but benji is a masterpiece.

Astral Abortis
February 21st 2017


6747 Comments


Honestly Sun Kil Moon's early work has SowingSeason written all over it.

Astral Abortis
February 21st 2017


6747 Comments


Ohio is the where Mark grew up so a lot of his songs are fuelled by that nostalgia. You'll notice most of his music is very location-based when telling a story, it's clear Mark believes the place is an important concept, so he almost always clarifies.

Sunnyvale
February 21st 2017


934 Comments


Neil Halstead is on this? Awesome.

Astral Abortis
February 21st 2017


6747 Comments


Halstead isn't on this, he just tours/plays with Sun Kil Moon sometimes.

theBoneyKing
February 21st 2017


16021 Comments


Edit: fixed

Digging: Modest Mouse - The Lonesome Crowded West



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