My 50 Favorite Albums of 2008: #04

Number 04

After the release of their 2001 record, Old Ramon, Mark Kozelek and his Red House Painters would soon find themselves no more. In the time they spent together they created some of the most essential music the entire decade of the 90’s would ever see, and although later on it would come to be known as a ridiculous thought to think that Kozelek would not continue to write and record beyond their disbanding, it was impossible not worry that if RHP ends…maybe their founding father does to. Like every group that was so important within their era (and I’d even say groundbreaking), it was difficult to comprehend that they were in fact hanging up their hats; but it wouldn’t be long at all before Kozelek reminded all of us that it doesn’t matter what name he operates under, but only that his emotion and staggering attention to detail would remain. Sun Kil Moon was formed shortly after the breakup of RHP, and with them he brought some familiar faces that continue to accompany him. Their debut from 2003, Ghosts of the Great Highway, was yet another masterwork and a solid piece of evidence that he does indeed deserve to be placed among our greatest songwriters, if for nothing else than for the simple fact that he accomplishes what only the legens have ever seemed to: he bests himself constantly, and never fails to at least meet (but usually exceed) expectations, with each passing set of all-original material. Highway had just enough of a change in sound to be considered different than RHP, but Sun Kil Moon is essentially version 2.0 of the former lineup; which would make it more fathomable to say that they’ve all basically been solo Kozelek, but with pseudonyms. I don’t mean to take anything away from the rest of the band’s contributions, because they are extremely substantial, and especially on Highway.

There was a mountain of acclaim that came with Sun Kil Moon’s debut record, with some even calling it the towering achievement of Kozelek’s entire career. In the five years that would pass before we’d see another album of all new original songs from the group, he did his best to keep the devoted followers satisfied; delivering many live albums, compilations, and cover collections. However, as patient as I can be, I must admit I was beginning to pine for a completely new set of Sun Kil Moon material. Fittingly, it was April 1st, 2008 that their official sophmore album, April, was released. It was evident from the git-go here that Kozelek had resorted back to a more somber tone this time around, with the majority of the record coming off as a blatantly solo project. There were a good amount of people, some of them even Kozelek-devotees, that considered this a setback for the artist. They were calling it flat and dreary, both vocally and musically, but I don’t think they cared to let the album introduce itself enough. If you’re an impatient listener, then don’t even begin to give April a spin, because with its immersive approach and bleeding length, you’re gonna have to dedicate yourself to be along for the ride; because unlike Highway, this record doesn’t have specific standout tracks that you can rely on to skip to at any given moment. From the opening strums of “Lost Verses”, all the way to the drawn-out, subtle departure of “Blue Orchids” some 70 minutes-plus later, this is a complete experience, finding a superb singer/songwriter staying at his peak, never to back down.

1.Lost Verses
2.The Light
3.Lucky Man
4.Unlit Hallway
5.Heron Blue
6.Moorestown
7.Harper Road
8.Tonight The Sky
9.Like The River
10.Tonight In Bilbao
11.Blue Orchids

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