Friday, April 11, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

Mark Kozelek is not in a hurry. Meditative, pensive and expansive, Kozelek’s songs tend to unfold over time, and over repeated listens. His understated hooks often escape identification on first listen. But for me it’s their very subtlety that makes his songs stand up to repeated listens.

Never has Kozelek’s restraint been more apparent than on April—his third album as Sun Kil Moon—released last week. Five of April’s tracks spread out over more than seven minutes, and nearly absent are the hummable melodies of songs like “Glen Tipton,” “Gentle Moon,” and “Pancho Villa” (from 2002’s fantastic Ghosts of the Great Highway).

Instead, April strikes me as a return to the realm of his final Red House Painters album, Old Ramon, with an emphasis on mood not melody, on repetition not hooks.

My early favorite is the nearly eight-minute “The Light,” with a solo break featuring two guitars playing entirely separate leads at the same time. The song is reminiscent of the Crazy Horse-esque “Make Like Paper” from Songs For A Blue Guitar but with a more melodic riff.

A welcome evolution on this record is added dimension of back-up singers Ben Gibbard (what won’t he stick his nose in?) and Will Oldham (a.k.a. Bonny “Prince” Billy) in place of Kozelek doing them all himself, as has historically been the case. There’s also the surprising banjo on “Unlit Hallway” and the mild country twang of “Like The River.”

Paste says April is arguably Kozelek’s best album. I won’t go that far. I’m too much a fan of Ghosts of the Great Highway and Songs For A Blue Guitar. And it’s simply too early for me to tell (see the first paragraph again). But it is very good.

That Kozelek’s songs are subtle and often take time to appreciate means this is almost certainly the wrong venue to introduce one from the new album. But that’s not going to stop me. Here’s “Moorestown” off April.

One final note: Fans should purchase the physical CD, as it comes with a bonus disc of alternate versions of four album tracks.

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