Sun Kil Moon – April
Artist: Sun Kil Moon
Release Date: 2008
I like to think about the things I want sometimes, not merely for the reason that we all fantasize of winning the lottery, meeting the dream girl, being the life of the party while everybody hangs on your every last word and glance, or having that one life-changing meal that sticks aromatically with you until the pit of the evening, but for the simple reason that I don’t ever quite know what it is I want. I mean, I can pinpoint a few of the things I know for certain: a loving girlfriend (if not somebody to merely enjoy in as present tense a situation as possible), an allotment of reasonable success in my artistic endeavors, social fulfillment that I’ve not quite felt since the token days of high school appreciation, the departure of the knot that’s lived in my stomach for nearly half a decade… these are all things that I know I want, and yet… I feel like the story is incomplete. Some missing sense of security seems to go completely absent when I compile all of these wondrous things in my head, as if something so obvious is being forgotten in my mentioning that I’ll smack my forehead until my brain hemorrhages upon realization. This is probably the part where my preachy friends come storming down, waving their holy books in my face and beaming, “You can fill that God-sized hole with whatever you want, but it will never quite fill it!” It’s not that, I know that much. But there’s something missing that I don’t have, that maybe I’ve really never had. And I really want to know what it is.
That’s somewhat of the feeling I get from April, an album by one of my very favorite singers and songwriters that just doesn’t quite charm or tickle me in the sense that his very best (Ocean Beach, Bridge [I don’t wish to come across like an estranged Red House Painters fan, but the best of Mark Kozelek’s skills were emphasized in the pit of his career with that founding band]) does. It’s a very clearly beautiful record, aesthetic being that of a foggy San Franciscan morning and tone being absolutely sublime even by the man’s expectedly-immaculate standard. There are even moments on this record where, despite Ghosts of the Great Highway and Tiny Cities making one think that it was all gone, Mark’s voice actually sounds exactly as it did in the glory days of his prominence. The astonishing opener “Lost Verses” feels like just that: a song that got buried in a trashbag of old notebooks, unearthed through the curiosity of nostalgic domestic exploration that every thoughtful person will partake in. It’s easy to forget that the first ten minutes of the release are spent on that one song, and it’s really a beautiful mark in the whole of his career.
There’s even a bit at around 6:45-ish that seems to pay homage to the cathartic snare in “Medicine Bottle”. If that was intentional, a million and eight praises on his head.
Experiencing April (on this early August night, just an acknowledgment I’d like to throw out that has virtually no significance) is like watching my future, receiving all of the things I listed in a theatrical display of all the best moments of my life to come. Things move slowly, but the entirety of visualizing everything coming together in the ways you’ve always feared they never would, and the idea that everything is going to work out pristinely and perfectly up until your last, shallowly wrinkled breath… it’s enough to fill me with contentment. And that’s stunningly spectacular, because contentment is one of the rarest feelings to ever extrapolate from the mere spin of a record. Complacency? You betcha. Calamity? Oh, absolutely. Intoxicated comfort that comes from nothing short of a person you love holding you? Even that. But contentment? The true and genuine feeling that everything is going to be alright because it’s been alright all along? That’s not a feeling I can attribute to any other records that come to immediate mind, and the fact that Mark Kozelek is the person to deliver that feeling makes me want to laugh boisterously. This is the man who wrote the song that brought me to tears after nearly a year of the driest cheeks known to man! The guy practically wrote the story of my entire year on his first record, carving a vale so sad and downtrodden that I’ve lamented miserably in the things he’s had to say. And now, despite all of that, here he is acting like a tremendous down comforter, soaked with elixirs and potions that make its inhabitant instantly feel like everything is going to be alright.
Did I mention that this feeling pervades before the second track has even come to a halt?
April is a very special record, but… though I’ve just went through incessant praising and undying admiration for what it offers, I return to the initial crux of everything: even in identifying what I want, and knowing what I like and what I’m striving for, I feel like something is missing. It’s that little sense of something misplaced that causes a barrier to sit awkwardly between the best of Kozelek and April, and no matter how hard this record pushes against the wall of this figurative forcefield, it doesn’t quite budge. It can’t tip the threshold. And I’m honestly okay with that. Just because this isn’t the best doesn’t mean that I’m bothered, in the same way that if I gained everything I claimed to want in the opening, I wouldn’t be unhappy. I wouldn’t be ill or otherwise upset that I’ve not achieved that perfection. That’s how I feel entirely about April, and if it’s any indication of what could very well end up being my future, allow somebody to punch my gut over the increasing frequency of wanting to throw in the towel. This is a record that gives me hope, and even if it does always fade as soon as the music stops playing, I’ll take what I can get.