(Discussion/Debate) The New Sun Kil Moon Sound

edited January 27 in Sun Kil Moon

Personally, I think it's more compelling as well as well made than perhaps the past 8 years of Kozelek's career, 10 if we don't count Admiral Fell Promises. I think people are much too worried about Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood being too different than the rest of his discography, rather than the quality of the actual music, as well as how truly unique and poetic of a style it really is.

Comments

  • I take it "the new Sun Kil Moon sound" specifically means Common, but I don't think it's as simple as that. Common does have a very distinctive "sound", but it's actually his narrative style that has been most polarising. This started bubbling to to the surface on Desertshore and Benji, and has been boiling over at least since the first Jesu album. I think Common's detractors underestimate its musical qualities, although I certainly wouldn't say I like it as much as anything from AFP through to Benji.

  • I was interested to read Mark explaining that he used the same writing and recording process on Common As Light as he had for Universal Themes. In hindsight I can hear similarities, yet I think the quality of the finished product differs dramatically between the two.

    When I first heard Universal Themes, I was surprised and not especially impressed. I guess I'd expected Benji mk2, hence the dramatically different sound and style caught me off guard.

    Thankfully I'd bought the CD already, and became determined to get my monies worth - so I listened to the full album several times a day for a week or so.

    Towards the end of that period, something began to change. I quickly realised I'd been drawn in by the complex song structures and overarching theme of the record. I subsequently found myself preferring Universal Themes to Benji, which I'd loved from the first time I heard it.

    Without meaning to sound unnecessarily pretentious, I came to appreciate how UT as an album is more than the sum of its parts. Individual songs rely on their contextual juxtaposition to be properly understood. Maybe there's one exception - The Possum, but obviously that forms the listener's gateway to the rest of the album. I don't know if this is just coincidence, but The Possum is also probably my least favourite track on that record.

    I guess it's due to the effort I needed to put in, that I now find Universal Themes the most rewarding post-April Sun Kil Moon material, for pure listening enjoyment.

    What then re-framed and refreshed the entire album, was having the chance to watch the movie Youth, a few months before the rather lacklustre commercial launch in a small number of independent cinemas.

    Despite the fact there was a lot less Kozelek in that film than the credits order suggested - I loved Youth. Whilst watching, I found myself ticking off imaginary boxes as content suggested by Mark's lyrics translated on to the screen.

    Having enjoyed the movie, I found that going back to the album led to my discovering new depths and tropes, cleverly hidden within lyrical content presented as quickly and slightly sloppily written words.

    The latter feature is the genius of Universal Themes. The lyrics lend themselves to a superficial dismissal as lazy songwriting, when in fact hidden within are multiple layers all tied together by the narrow universal theme of a relatively short period in Mark's life, with resonances we can all hear that are personal to each listener.

    I was bitterly disappointed that apparently the second attempt at writing and recording an album via the same method, failed to produce either a coherent body of complimentary tracks, nor the immersive musical experience achieved first time around.

    I've tried hard for nearly a year now, using the same approach as last time - however instead of suddenly finding an enjoyable mojo, I just become more and more bored.

    My biggest problem with Common As Light relates to the actual music. Unlike the huge variety across just the 8 tracks on Universal Themes, here there's 2 full CDs of mostly similar sounding uninspiring tunes.

    Nearly every song seems to start with and revolve around a slow paced repeating bass motif, with drums joining in perfectly well. However rarely does any track develop into a memorable and / or tuneful epic.

    I understand some fans are not keen on Mark's current approach to lyrics, but that's really a moot point for me with this album. Without strong tunes to underpin them, lyrics of any type fall flat when the music cannot hold the listener's attention.

    I suspect if more care had been taken in curating Common As Light, for example paring back the tracklist to a single album's worth of music - the result might become both a stronger and more coherent artistic statement, as well as a more enjoyable listening experience.

    What's really frustrating for me is that in other projects, such as the 2nd Jesu collaboration and Astronomy - Mark shows us he still has the writing skills that brought him to this point in his career.

    I'm very curious to hear the new work he's mentioned. It sounds like we will be getting at least two new albums this year. I'm looking on the bright side and hoping Common As Light was just an outlier.

    I don't care if the new material is different, I just want it to be good!

  • Posts: 151

    That jesu stuff I found pretty dull if you count that.

  • Posts: 69

    I'm not going to write an essay on it, but aside from a few songs on Universal Themes and the Jesu collabs, I haven't enjoyed Koz's output since Benji, and the last album of his I genuinely loved was Admiral Fell Promises, so yeah we're talking 8 years of, generally, mediocre to outright bad output. Meh.

  • JRSJRS
    Posts: 536

    I think you could take a song or two from each of the albums post Universal Themes and with a bit of tweaking, make one excellent album. The way that Mark’s song writing has evolved over the last few years really hasn’t surprised me. I’m just grateful that he is still making music and that he puts on a great live show.

  • edited January 28 Posts: 22

    One thing I'd like to add is that I feel like Kozelek hasn't lost anything, it feels more like this is a detour, one that, I'm not even sure he's going to stay in for a while. Kozelek has reminded us that he is still 100% capable of creating a more tuneful guitar driven song, "God Bless Ohio" "Window Sash Weights" "This Dream Of Winter" "The Reasons I Love You".

  • @WinterCity said:
    One thing I'd like to add is that I feel like Kozelek hasn't lost anything, it feels more like this is a detour, one that, I'm not even sure he's going to stay in for a while. Kozelek has reminded us that he is still 100% capable of creating a more tuneful guitar driven song, "God Bless Ohio" "Window Sash Weights" "This Dream Of Winter" "The Reasons I Love You".

    Feels a bit like Neil Young in the 80s.

  • edited January 29 Posts: 22

    @LettersinKanji said:

    @WinterCity said:
    One thing I'd like to add is that I feel like Kozelek hasn't lost anything, it feels more like this is a detour, one that, I'm not even sure he's going to stay in for a while. Kozelek has reminded us that he is still 100% capable of creating a more tuneful guitar driven song, "God Bless Ohio" "Window Sash Weights" "This Dream Of Winter" "The Reasons I Love You".

    Feels a bit like Neil Young in the 80s.

    I've heard that comparison before but I think one could compare Kozelek's recent output to the weirder side of Paul Mccartney's solo career.

  • Posts: 151

    @WinterCity said:

    @LettersinKanji said:

    @WinterCity said:
    One thing I'd like to add is that I feel like Kozelek hasn't lost anything, it feels more like this is a detour, one that, I'm not even sure he's going to stay in for a while. Kozelek has reminded us that he is still 100% capable of creating a more tuneful guitar driven song, "God Bless Ohio" "Window Sash Weights" "This Dream Of Winter" "The Reasons I Love You".

    Feels a bit like Neil Young in the 80s.

    I've heard that comparison before but I think one could compare Kozelek's recent output to the weirder side of Paul Mccartney's solo career.

    Oh no! Not as bad as 80's Paul!

  • @crayon said:

    @WinterCity said:

    @LettersinKanji said:

    @WinterCity said:
    One thing I'd like to add is that I feel like Kozelek hasn't lost anything, it feels more like this is a detour, one that, I'm not even sure he's going to stay in for a while. Kozelek has reminded us that he is still 100% capable of creating a more tuneful guitar driven song, "God Bless Ohio" "Window Sash Weights" "This Dream Of Winter" "The Reasons I Love You".

    Feels a bit like Neil Young in the 80s.

    I've heard that comparison before but I think one could compare Kozelek's recent output to the weirder side of Paul Mccartney's solo career.

    Oh no! Not as bad as 80's Paul!

    Whether this is sarcasm or not, I was honestly reminded a bit when I listened to Ram.

  • Posts: 151

    Pipes of peace....press to play....don't think Mark has reached this low....yet!

  • Posts: 1,136

    Say say say lol.

  • Whilst they may not be characteristic of much of Mark's recent output, the fact we've all heard he can still write and record amazing songs like Dream Of Winter and Astronomy - is surely something fans new and old alike, are at least able to appreciate?

    The phenomenal live Magik*Magik recording shows us that Mark still knows how to create content that represents his work in the best possible light - and that he can present songs in new and innovative ways, satisfying fans of all eras whilst disappointing no one.

  • Posts: 33

    @mojofilters has written a thoughtful discussion on "Common" and "UT" that represents both a solid argument on the albums and completely tracks my views.

    "Common" is focussed around dull bass grooves. "UT" has incredibly musical and beautiful songs like "Birds of Flims" and "It's My First Day." The album itself is a story based around the movie and the illness of his friend.

    Very interesting and thoughtful comments.

  • edited February 5 Posts: 217

    I know that's not what the OP meant by "sound", but I'd like to add that I think the recent records have very nice productions, especially Common which sounds really lively, crisp and groovy regardless of content.

  • What I like about his new "sound" as you call it, is his diversity. It shows that he isn't just lazy and doesn't want to write songs properly (as it may appear to many). He challenges himself, first with Universal with a lot of improv, then with Common that seems to stem from a lot of improv and his use of the bass. Now a new recording environment and nearly completely solo again. And then the collaborations are really diverse, too.

    The results are - for me, at least - sometimes great, mostly difficult to like but I can construct a nice album of all the songs I like from last year for example.
    The new songs seem to translate more well into live concerts than albums.

    I could imagine one could construct a really great album from all his best songs of the last years with a proper producer and not the man doing it himself.

    But that's just like my opinion.

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