Artist of the week: Sun Kil Moon
It’s has been one tremendous and quite unforgettable year for Mark Kozelek. If, at least initially, the new autobiographical tone of his songwriting received a lukewarm reception (2012’s Among The Leaves), last year’s Benji triggered such a widespread acclaim that it became easily not only his most revered album, but also his most popular to date. But then, all hell seemed to break loose with the difficulty of some press and occasional fans to digest Mark’s twisted sense of humor: first was his The War On Drugs feud, then his lamentable rant about a female British journalist. In the middle, not only a very touching and surprising Christmas album was released under his own name as he managed to record a new album for his Sun Kil Moon moniker and to release it recently, when any spin doctor would have advised to wait for a better timing, when half of the world would had forgotten his politically incorrect antics. But (and to paraphrase one his new songs) this is Mark “fucking” Kozelek we’re talking about, and he obviously pulls no punches.
The new and sardonically titled Universal Themes doesn’t need any welcoming mood to set its own agenda: these are the most nakedly confessional songs he has ever released, obsessively focusing on the same themes of his two last records (basically, music and death – you can’t get more universal than that), invoking his family, friends and childhood with the mix of acute precision, humor, rage and melancholy that has become his trademark voice in the last four years. The big novelty is, definitely, the music: this is one of the most diverse, adventurous and sonically rich records Mark has ever produced and brings to mind the good-old days of Red House Painters‘ musical prowess. Of course it will not be praised as much as Benji (too many shit happened in between and too many people were either baffled, shocked or pissed by his shenanigans), but genuine Kozelek fans will definitely appreciate a much-needed deflection of all the hype he has been receiving lately. It’s time for some peace and quite, coz there are eight new tremendously immersive songs for them to sink in.
João Pedro da Costa is a web studies scholar and a music fan.