Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Album review: MARK KOZELEK & JIMMY LAVALLE - Perils From The Sea

Highlights: Gustavo, Ceiling Gazing, Caroline, Somehow The Wonder Of Life Prevails

Is it about me or about Mark Kozelek that his latest records sound so brilliant? I’m not saying that the man has peaked as a songwriter (though maybe I am), but both last year’s Among The Leaves (under the Sun Kil Moon moniker) and this rather unlikely collaboration with Jimmy Lavalle make a lot more sense to me than any of those acclaimed Red House Painters albums. Perils From The Sea is mumbling minimalism at its catchiest.

John Grant. This is the name that sprang to my mind the moment the slightly alarming electronic beginning of “What Happened To My Brother” died down and we got into the actual melody of the thing. The melody is lovely, and, mercifully, it takes the central stage. Overall, Jimmy Lavalle’s electronic background is subtle and reasonable and doesn’t in any way make Mark sacrifice good taste. Something that totally destroyed Pale Green Ghosts (Grant’s latest) for me.

As you would expect, a very homogenous and calm album full of long-winded, cheerless ballads that are nonetheless absolutely mesmerising. Mark’s world-weary croon works perfectly with the disarmingly simple and memorable vocal melodies and sparse arrangements. Take the poignant final song of the album, “Somehow The Wonder Of Life Prevails”. You are supposed to treat titles like that with great suspicion, but the repetitive groove is so captivating I could easily go one for another 10 minutes.

I can understand how one would say this stuff is way too monotonous and depressing, but then there’s no point in accusing Mark Kozelek of sounding monotonous and depressing. Besides, for all its sadness, the tunes are perfectly appealing. “Ceiling Gazing” is actually one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever heard.


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