Highlights: Sunshine In Chicago, Among The Leaves, Track Number 8
As you would probably expect, Mark Kozelek, that sad-eyed purveyor of elegant gloom (sometimes labeled ‘slowcore’), doesn’t change all that much. Well, granted, if you compare this new Sun Kil Moon stuff with his celebrated (I’m using the word in its least overblown sense) Red House Painters records from the 90’s, you will get something dangerously close to a happy, upbeat sell-out. Which, of course, Among The Leaves is not.
Among The Leaves is a superior folk album by an artist who stays true to his long and well-honed aesthetic. It’s depressing (even when it isn’t), it’s slow (even when it’s actually quite pacey), it’s monotonous (even when Mark tries some diversity), and it’s extremely lovely. All through these 17 songs you wallow in that monochrome cascade of hazy, woozy loveliness and try to decide whether they are all brilliant or all rather mediocre. Then blurry, uncertain outlines of Kozelek’s classics begin to peep out – slowly, reluctantly. Like the memorable, beautifully orchestrated title track; the dark, waltzy “Track Number 8” (which is, of course, track number 11); the fluid, lilting folk ballad called “That Bird Has A Broken Wing”.
Fans might consider it Mark’s White Album or something, but I would insist on some editing. Yes, it’s essentially a pop record and there’s not a bad song anywhere in sight, but this stuff is still much too samey not to become slightly tiresome after 40 minutes or so. The voice is lovely though, weary but lovely.
Self-indulgent. Having said that, ‘guys in tennis shoes’ surely won’t mind.