Three years ago, sitting in the Lewis and Clark dorms during a gray Portland winter, I first heard Sun Kil Moon. Even the idea of the album—a collection of Modest Mouse interpretations—was enigmatic. Mark Kozelek's vision of folk was subdued like the weather outside, where lonely guitars and the occasional banjo hammer out melodies with the methodical precision of a metronome while his detached voice drones along in a dreamy swirl. And somehow Kozelek used these unassuming conventions to wring out emotion from a sparse American landscape of gray weather, the open road, small towns and love lost.
Even without the lyrics of Isaac Brock this time, April, the third Sun Kil Moon studio album, stands as a strong composition, skillfully written and uniquely confounding. Indeed, Kozelek, who also recently published a book of his lyrical poetry, approaches his songs with the winsome touch of a master. In many ways, his conception of a surreal modernized West is homogenous with Brock's. April unwinds at its own pace, subdued and melodic, with many of the songs clocking in at around 10 minutes. These songs are complex, but always with the unassuming dignity that makes Sun Kil Moon come across somewhat like a folked out Windham Hill.
April never made it beyond 197 on the Billboard Top 200 and in all likelihood, Mark Kozelek will have a long wait for the recognition he deserves for Sun Kil Moon. But if you have an ear for nuances and need a good album for a long walk as the weather gets colder, he just might become your new best friend.