On the first few listens of April, by Sun Kil Moon it’s the hooks (guitar riffs, chorus) that suck you in. Further listening uncovers the multiple layers beneath: the rich textured walls of sound, the expressive lyrics of loneliness, longing and memories of love. As each layer reveals itself and you become more familiar with the song, you move ever closer into the mind of the artists, feeling the depth of their emotions.
The opening track, “Lost Verses” sets the tone. It begins with a lone acoustic guitar accompanying the voice of singer Mark Kozelek. As it continues, instruments are added until the end of the song (a 90 second instrumental coda) has a wonderfully layered, full structure of sound.
“Unlit Hallway” is an acoustic ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Nick Drake or Neil Young album, with beautiful guitar (and banjo) instrumentation.
Speaking of Mr. Young, my current favorite on the disc is “Tonight The Sky” which uses a Neil Young like riff as a mantra to keep a memory alive.
Her head lay back in blankets soft white down.
Her hair warm Autumn colours, floating.
Our days were classroom poems, true young love.
Some nights we roar like lions, some we coo like doves.
I left her long ago one summer, chasing dreams.
I hummed good sweet explosions, sweet nothings.
I broke her heart not knowing she’d return,
And graven scars deep in me, forever.
I hear my sleeping sister,
In the early morning hours.
I hear her though it’s silent,
Standing over me now.
Tonight the sky, will open for you.
Mountains and big clouds, divide us in two.
As a lyricist, Mark Kozelek fills the listener’s mind with vivid, emotional images. Another standout track is “Tonight In Bilboa,” a song that reminisces about a past love, and also has beautiful instrumental work.
When I was done I met someone,
She came in from the storm so bright and welcome.
Her friends came and swept her away,
Disappeared like coyotes off on dark high plains.
I looked across the river so still,
Trying to remember,
Where it was last night I laid my head to sleep,
Where the empty night hung heavily over.
I left Bilbao, went to Madrid,
To Barcelona, to Pamplona,
Where every ghost runs in me now,
Mark Kozelek’s talent for songwriting is first rate. These are not short pop songs either. Their length matches the depth of the emotion behind them. Although most songs on the record clock in at over six minutes, I find I am disappointed when they’re over. I still want more, and maybe that’s the point. On April, the underlying theme is one of longing. The songs go on as if the singer doesn’t want to let go of that feeling. When the album has finished playing, the longing has such beauty I don’t want it to stop either.