Sun Kil Moon 

April

Mark Kozelek's first record of original material in five years starts softly, mournfully fingerpicking, and moaning his new tale of woe "Lost Verses" until, somewhere around the eight-minute mark, things ramp up into a warm-blooded electric guitar jam. Not quite the huge sounds of "Pancho Villa" from Ghosts of the Great Highway, but getting there. That, in a nutshell, defines April, his latest disc released under the name Sun Kil Moon: the mood is still meditative, but much more so than any of his covers projects. There is catharsis, light at the end of the tunnel. Bonnie Prince Billy and Ben Gibbard add a little something here and there, but mostly you almost don't notice them unless you listen closely. The voices drift in out of the atmosphere and then haze out again. That happens with instruments, too, like the banjo on "Unlit Hallway," which arrives like a heat mirage on the highway out of Barstow.

Lyrically, Kozelek is still mining his personal corner where desolation and love mix together. Part nostalgia and and part forlorn hopelessness, this is what we've known about the San Francisco-based songwriter for years. But I find that hopeful notes are the ones that resonate throughout this particular disc. And, just in case you're wondering, the songs still tend toward the epic; "Tonight the Sky" clocks in at over ten minutes, complete with epic guitar freak-out. (Caldo Verde Records)

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