Sun Kil Moon
Among the Leaves
Jun 01, 2012 Issue #41 - Yeasayer
Mark Kozelek, the mastermind of Sun Kil Moon, and ex of the seminal '90s act Red House Painters, is a progenitor of what went on to be known as slowcore music. Kozelek sadly never got his due during his prior band's heyday, but there's been something of a renaissance of appreciation lately. Jens Lekman has been known to cover the Red House Painters' classic "Katy Song"; he's the most noteworthy of a multitude of modern artists expressing appreciation towards "Crazy Koz," as he was affectionately nicknamed on the Mojave 3 fete of the same name from Excuses for Travellers.
On Among the Leaves, Sun Kil Moon's fifth LP, Kozelek doesn't tinker much with the template that's reaped him peerless success over the course of more than two decades. The crepuscular ballads are laden with subtly plucked guitar melodies and hooks that, given time, ingratiate themselves indelibly into your psyche, with gallows humor occasionally interjected for levity.
"Elaine" finds Kozelek crafting an expository character sketch of a woman's drug addiction, devastating with the excruciating couplet "High on crack cocaine/You and Juan Valdez." A wispy, seesaw ballad, it recalls the compassionate, nonjudgmental street urchin portraits of classic Velvet Underground tunes such as "Stephanie Says" and "Candy Says."
"Sunshine in Chicago" is a brilliant ode to the beauty and ugliness of life on the road, and the toll being in a band inevitably takes on a songwriter's psyche. Kozelek recalls the good ole days that probably didn't seem so good at the time without a trace of cheap nostalgia, crooning, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, "My band played here a lot in the '90s when we had lots of female fans and thought they all were cute/Now I just sign posters for guys in tennis shoes."
The track's burnished resplendence makes the moment resonate like a sepia Polaroid, building to Kozelek's bleating confession, "My back it fucking hurts/But otherwise I'm fine." And as bruised and broken as he may be, Kozelek manages to sublimate his pain into a grandiose yet good-humored catharsis throughout the uniformly superb Among the Leaves. (www.sunkilmoon.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 9/10