TOTW: Sun Kil Moon_ The Highway Song

Sun Kil Moon has been developing his own style in the genre of the singer songwriter over his past four albums and his last three could almost be seen as a trilogy. Benji was a nostalgic masterpiece that looked back on lead singer/guitarist Mark Kozelek’s life in a mix of joy and sorrow with a forward facing honesty that hit home on many counts. Then the album Universal Themes brought the same style of honest story telling the current day with diary like detail. Now on his latest entitled Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood Kozelek has blended both the past and the present together in more detail. We spend a lot of this album inside his head as it goes to some uplifting and unsettling places.

The Highway Song is a great example of this. Boiled down the song is about his thoughts whilst driving around with the A B structure almost working as two separate songs. The opening A structure deals with immediate thoughts that he experiences as he sees things from his car before it reminds him of his fascination with Murder and Serial Killers which then become the B section. These sections are explained with a detail of the crime with a police report accuracy. This Structure creates a dark and occasionally uncomfortable piece of music but an intriguing one that’s worth listening to.


TOTW Playlist:

TOTW: Sun Kil Moon_Birds of Films

This week I got to see Sun Kil Moon live at the RNCM in Manchester. Mark Kozeleck may get more press now for his outspoken attitude then his music but what can’t be denied is his talents as a lyricist and persona onstage. He oozed a confidence that only comes from years of live performance and over 2 hours took the audience through a history of his work in ways that were fresh and captivating. Keeping me on edge with a constant element of uncertainty and anarchism.

His previous album Benji was my album of the year and I have waxed lyrical about it on this blog before. With his newest album Universal Themes, Mark Kozeleck has taken his unique lyrical style of stripping away metaphor and simile from his songs and applied it to modern, almost immediate experiences. This Diary like style is applied across all elements of the album from its composition to its arrangement. It is hit and miss but when it does hit it packs a punch of brutal honesty that manages to summarise the experience of human existence unparalleled in any music I have heard before.

When I first heard Birds of films I was shocked by one verse. The song tracks his experience on the set of a film in switzerland and manges to cover both the mundane and the remarkable. But when he talks about his experiences of taking a woman out to a bar one evening, and flirting with the idea of cheating on his girlfriend before deciding against it. I felt like I was intruding on something too personal to be out there for public consumption.

Yet It’s these moments in all his work that show a mirror up to our existence. They show the fragility of our emotions and the randomness of our experiences. This isn’t an exaggeration of what it is to be a human like most music, It’s the truth and I find that captivating.

The fact that I can write so much about Mark Kozeleck’s work is a clear indication of what I think about him. He’s a true artist, someone who has found their own niche in folk and rock music, and over his career has developed it in new and varied directions. He’s flawed and has his weaknesses that may come across badly in some articles about him but these are the imperfections of being human. They are part of who he is and how he expresses himself and when he does that through music it can lead to the most personal musical experiences I have ever heard:

Album of the year 2014: Sun Kil Moon_Benji

Sun Kil Moon BenjiBenji is one of the most honest albums about personal experience I have ever heard and my album of the year.

Over its 11 tracks we manage to see a revealing portrayal of Mark Kozeleks life, his fears for the future and key moments that have stuck with him to the point where he recorded the album.

The lyrics are so brutally honest and revealing they can make you feel like your reading from his secret diary. He doesn’t just focus on the extraordinary. Tragedies and moments of hope are often juxtaposed with the mundane. We hear about the loss of his uncle and cousin to fires, a mercy killing, serial killers, his love life, mass murder, films, bullying, friends, family, passing thoughts, eating blue crab cakes, getting older, the list goes on creating a kaleidoscope of key moments that made him who he is.

This all-encompassing view of the world is personalised through his lens, which doesn’t hide the story’s behind metaphor and simile. Instead it explains them frankly and openly but also with the artistic flair of an experienced and talented singer songwriter.

The instrumentation of the album is sparse compared to some of his earlier works. What is there has been carefully planned and honed into something that doesn’t just provide a backing track to the story but helps contribute to it. Allowing space for his lyrics to resonate whilst also highlighting themes and feelings within the lyrics.

By talking so personally about His life Mark Kozelek has created an album that says something about the human condition in a way that speaks to everyone.

Benji manages to portray a life in all its faults, failures, frailness and frivolities. It tells stories from his specific history whilst also being timeless. I have listened to it many times since its release in February because by opening the window to his world Kozeleek helps me contemplate mine.

TOTW: Sun Kil Moon_Carissa

Ok I’ve Cheated… A little bit. Although the opening track is my TOTW, The album “Benji” by Sun Kil Moon is truly outstanding and easily my favourite album this year up till now, so I had to include the whole thing.

If you have an hour, sit back and listen to it. It takes you on a journey. A dark voyage that you may not like to travel down often. The album may be bleak in many ways and full of death but it still manages to convey that life goes on and you should appreciate what you have for the brief time you have it: