Sun Kil Moon Among The Leaves
Whether recording as Red House Painters or Sun Kil Moon, Mark Kozelek isn’t exactly known for his sense of humor. But on the new Among The Leaves, Kozelek’s usual self-flagellation shares space with relatively lighthearted lyrics, with mixed results: Song titles such as “I Know It’s Pathetic But That Was the Greatest Night of My Life” and “Not Much Rhymes With Everything’s Awesome At All Times” seem borrowed from a more ebullient songwriter like Jens Lekman, though the music’s not quite ecstatic. At times, his humor swerves from endearing to somewhat clueless: The straight-faced “The Moderately Talented Yet Attractive Young Woman Vs. The Exceptionally Talented Yet Not So Attractive Middle Aged Man” comes across as more vain than self-deprecating. But the more playful takes on romantic regret—Kozelek’s wheelhouse—are a nice shift for the downcast singer-songwriter, who turns his more somber attentions to themes of death and aging.
On “Song For Richard Collopy,” an ode to a late San Francisco luthier, Kozelek sings of a lost friend with disarmingly simple details. “All summer he wouldn’t return my calls / Hey Richard, I’d like my guitar back by fall,” he sings, before revealing personal pain: “I’ve got a record to make and a promise to break / A tour in England, a smile to fake.” On “Track Number 8,” a self-aware take on the songwriting life, he outlines the dark side of musical obligations before acknowledging a host of dead colleagues: “Songwriting costs, it doesn’t come free / ask Elliott Smith, ask Richie Lee.” It’s a crushing moment, and somehow more bravely biographical than another ballad for an absent woman. It’s on these darker songs that Kozelek’s fresh urgency provides a needed spark to his familiar sorrow.