Sun Kil Moon - April

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The first 4-5 months of each year, I can't help but notice that new releases of music (of interest) are few and far between. By April, a quiet desperation for something new has triumphed over budget considerations.

Over the years, there have been occasional rewards for buying a CD based on cover art or a vague recollection of a favorable review. Peter Gabriel's third self-titled release or Mike Scott's Still Burning are two that come to mind. This does, however, involve an element of risk, as there have surely been more duds than finds.

So we come to Sun Kil Moon. There's not anything in the name or cover art that would suggest "buy me! I'm good!" But, there's that vague recollection of something I read somewhere, it's another slow year for quality music, and the plastic wrapped sucker is just sitting right there on the new release cart before being placed in the bins.

SKM is a critic's darling, which is often a buzz term for "don't waste your money." Guilty. At the first hearing, I can imagine the Fivebucks Coffee crowd entering a hip basement arts lounge... poetry on Thursdays, music on Fridays and performance art on Saturdays (also wine and cheese night)... and finding a deeper "meaning," bowled away by something in the performance that speaks to the standard artistic byline of purpose and merit... "it represents a period of change in my life."

An observation can be true and cynical at the same time, no? Aside from academic pursuits, art in all its forms is not about pointing fingers at the artist. Appreciation is truly in the eyes (or ears) of the beholder.

Music, like other artistic expressions, should have some effect that moves one into... a memory? comfort? aspiration? joy? Though I'm certain it's insufficient, I'll condense the possibilities into a deeper understanding of "something." In some fashion great or small, it should cause or reflect change in one's own life as well.

My wife, herself an artist, hears music, as opposed to listens to it. She has never been able to fathom how I can sit and "listen" to something, which in her world, should be playing in the background while involved in another task.

It's hard to explain for those that don't also listen... dissecting a song by instrument, delivery, structure, production mix, tone, mood, word, ambition, emotion, message, triumph... failure. This is not a knock against her. Observing a large, highly priced, paint-splashed canvas, I can only marvel how "it represents a period of change in my life" resonates with so many. Each to his own.

Music can succeed at a number of levels - lyrics can be any number of things... insightful, funny, amusing, poignant, narrative, personal... these are some that I appreciate. And the music? dramatic, emotional, enlivening, appropriate for the lyric, artistically compelling, every instrument or note in the right place... Perhaps. I tend to value a CD where the artist is true to their own conceptual ideas, not bowing to corporate expectations or controlling producers.

Fair enough then. What have we here? Musically: minimalist, sparse, focused, repetitive. For those that enjoy songs with a big beat or an exploding guitar riff, this isn't it. For those that enjoy vocal deliveries that stretch beyond one octave, look elsewhere. Finger-picked acoustic guitar dominates, with accents from cymbals, drums, and a dark repetitive electric guitar lines. None of this is bad, but it sets a very low-key tone.

... which then must be appropriate for the lyrics. The vocal styling is the same from song to song... starts a little low, goes slightly higher, and fades out in the musical mix. A lyric sheet would likely help, because at times I can tell there is something good hidden here. I just can't decipher it. The delivery is so depressingly offered that it is often unintelligble. If I paid for the artist's freaking book that includes the lyrics to all his songs, then maybe I would get somewhere. I assume a complimentary copy was sent to the published music critics to warrant the value they noted here. Learn from another of my mistakes. Don't bother.

Suggested track: "Moorestown"
2 stars.

1 comment :

  1. I listened to the 30 second version on Itunes today... TY for not suggesting I buy that... It was tantamount to nails on a chalkboard. The noise that song makes is almost as annoying as the sound Dean makes with his cheek... remind me to share that with you someday LOL Keep up the good blogging ;)