Sun Kil Moon “Admiral Fell Promises”

Caldo Verde 2010

It seems Mark Kozelek wants us to believe he just breathes all of his songs—that they are effortless, sporadic chunks of creative masturbation he can toss off whenever he so pleases. This may explain the stitched-together nature of Sun Kil Moon’s fourth album, “Admiral Fell Promises”, and the stone-eyed, monotone delivery of its weighty themes. It could also have something to do with the fact that every song is stripped down to the key ingredients of Kozelek’s work—his voice and guitar. Frankly, however, I’m not fooled—this is Kozelek’s most realized batch of songs in years, and I’ll be damned if he wasn’t as committed to them as anything he has ever done. (After all, live versions of the title track have been circulating since 2001.)

Kozelek fans have come to understand Sun Kil Moon as the full band version of his mumbled musings, and the laid back, simple nature of “Admiral” has been rubbing some critics and fans the wrong way. Plus, it seems some are growing impatient of Kozelek’s steadily increasing average song length. Maybe I’m just biased, but none of this bothers me. Upon first listening to this record, it struck me as an album full of songs in the style of “Blue Orchids”, the beautiful solo acoustic collage that closes Sun Kil Moon’s third album, “April”. Back when I was obsessively listening to that album, I remember wishing there were more songs on the record like “Blue Orchids” (though I do love “April” quite a bit). Granted, there aren’t many songs on “Admiral” that match that subtle grandeur, but there certainly are a few. The title track, a three-and-a-half minute descent from wide-eyed optimism into chilling indifference, is one of them. “You Are My Sun” is too, and very well may be the greatest love song Kozelek has yet written.

As evidenced by past covers of bands like Yes, there is definitely some prog rock influence present in Kozelek’s songs, and it’s pretty noticeable on this album despite the fact that it’s just a man with his guitar. The way the songs are arranged recall the multi-faceted mini-operas that made up many a prog record back in the sixties and seventies. It’s linear, stream-of-consciousness songwriting, and it would almost be appropriate to give each part in each song its own little subtitle. But Kozelek would never want us to know if he put that much effort into anything. He would much rather be Mr. Cool about it all and put out another album with the same black-and-white photograph look about it, as if it were an old photo book he uncovered from some lost attic. Though his nonchalance can be grating at times, Kozelek shines on this album, which is more or less his version of “Pink Moon”. ****

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One Response to “Sun Kil Moon “Admiral Fell Promises””

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