Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sun Kil Moon - Among the Leaves review

The weight of expectation can be a terrible thing for a record and I have to say, I am guilty of it as anyone else. Sun Kil Moon's last record Admiral Fell Promises haunted both my dreams and travels of the world. A simple nylon acoustic and voice record, the songs explored unknown territories of longing and loss. At first, the flamenco flourishes almost seemed cheesy but played into part of a greater narrative of each song, twisting and informing ways beyond the lyrics. I love that album and unfortunately Among the Leaves enters my brain with wildly unrealistic expectations based on that record. It is an entirely different album to Admiral Fell Promises and I'd lie if I didn't feel let down by it. This is not saying it isn't a good record, it just isn't the record I wanted and that is an entirely selfish and unreasonable thing but it is a very human thing. But then, this is a very human record with its foibles and inconsistencies laid bare so it feels ok to admit this up front.

What kind of man travels and sings?
No kids, no food to bring home in his trunk
Home to a stable family with a picnic table

I'm not sure what the difference between Mark Kozelek's and his alter-ego band Sun Kil Moon but there is an insatiable restless that haunts Among the Leaves. The wanderlust of the traveling troubadour is caught in all its minutiae both good and bad - the boredom, the one night stands, the thankful fans, the sleepless nights, the travel and the hipster doofuses all caught through Kozelek's poetic eye. It is no doubt a record written on the road as his work often is but this plays out like a online tour diary to song. I have no doubt that the stories recounted here all happened and the plaintive wandering of Kozelek's life comes across as strangely moving yet somehow unsatisfying. The above quote from album highlight That Bird has a broken wing is probably the most telling - the constant movement and flux seems to be wearing him down but still he continues. The tracks can be poignant or even weird, I'm not sure how many musicians have written a song about getting their guitar fixed (Song for Richard Collopy).

I find this record slightly difficult because the songs themselves are excellent but there is a slight flatness to the listening experience. All of the Sun Kil Moon records have been immaculately sequenced and I think this may be a problem as there is too much similarity between the tracks to give them a true dynamic. That being said, any new material is Kozelek material is welcomed and again, my expectations may play a part in the downbeat review. I think this one might be a grower but at this time of writing, I like it but don't love it and I desperately want to love it. I'll check back later in the year and see how I'm traveling with it.


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