Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle - Perils from the Sea

Indulge me. Late last year a friend of mine committed suicide, the sad conclusion of downward spiral over many years. As is often the case, he had distanced himself from his friends and I hadn't spoken to him in a few years, separated by imagined slights and darkness that mental illness fuels. I was rudely alerted to it through a Facebook feed and even now, I'm not really sure what happened, I'm not sure I really want to know. On that day, the first song from this album, What happened to my brother?, was released online. I listened to it about 30 times on repeat drinking a bottle of wine by myself swept up in a vertiginous wooziness of grief - somehow the world was simultaneously expanding and contracting as I plummeted into an ocean of sadness. In many ways, my friend was my brother and the song reverberated with that overwhelming grief, confusion and loss I was feeling.

Now I don't say this to invoke a pity party but it's to make a broader point: that song will be forever associated with that day for me and this is the brilliance of this record, it feels so intimate and personal that regardless of the stories Kozelek is telling, they feel relatable, they feel like your stories. Of late, Kozelek has largely released nylon acoustic laments with the occasional Neil Young-ish rock out so the move to the electronic pallates of the Album Leaf (Jimmy LaValle) may have caused some concern if they weren't so sympathetic to Kozelek's weary baritone. If anything, Kozelek gains here as the songs create evocative soundscapes which add an understated emotion to his work.

All the tracks are good; apart from the aforementioned Brother, 1936, Caroline, and Ceiling Gazing are especially gorgeous. The only weaker track is You missed my heart, beautiful in the solo acoustic setting but too upbeat in this recording by straying too close to Postal Service territory (not that there's anything wrong with them, just not the right fit for Kozelek). Kozelek rolls through tales of love, loss, the road and mortality with his trademark weariness, occasional surliness and a good dash of humour. Regardless of the setting or instrumentation, it his voice which carries these songs to your heart and these tracks seem especially inspired. Despite the high quality of the Sun Kil Moon albums, there is something very special about this record which speaks directly to the soul.


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