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Admiral Fell Promises

Sun Kil Moon

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Album Review

Admiral Fell Promises is the fourth full-length by Mark Kozelek's alter ego Sun Kil Moon — the name he's used since 2003. All of his records, whether they be full-band outings or completely solo like this one, carry his signature warm, slow, nocturnal vocal delivery, lending his songs an unhurried, often melancholy feel, even when he exercises his wry and ready sense of humor. Admiral Fell Promises features Kozelek accompanied only by a fingerpicked, nylon-string Spanish guitar and his voice. While he often double-tracks his vocals, the effect it creates is one of spaciousness inside his songs. Its sound is crystalline without being at all icy. These songs, no matter their musical tempo, change their interior shapes dreamily but in something akin to stop-motion photography. Given the intimacy of the presentation, they invite you into their various worlds, with guitar as both rhythmic and melodic components, and they evolve at a glacial pace: the guitar work here is especially notable. Kozelek is no small talent when it comes to playing disciplined flamenco sketches, employing them as melodies, bridges, or intros and outros in his tunes. The latter of these which closes "Half Moon Bay," is striking for how it seemingly changes up the musical frame of the tune. Check the guitar work on "Sam Wong Hotel" which acts as another storytelling device, speaking in sharp contrast to his vocal; it signals each musical shift in this sadder-than-sad love song. Alternately, his playing also lends a sweetness that enters the stark musical landscape of his words. If songs like "Third and Seneca," the title cut, or "Church of the Pines" (with its hints of "Norwegian Wood") were simply strummed chord changes accompanying his lyrics, they'd be dull and depressing. Instead, they are long, moody landscape shots that eventually close in on his lyric's concerns, offering portraits of ambiguous complexity in seemingly easy-to-define emotional transactions. "The Learning Tree" is a clear standout, because it traverses not only the interiority of the human heart, but equates its conflicting feelings with the physical landscape around it. The guitar drives the song's protagonist ever forward in search of someone and something he may not find, even as he pushes through the rubble of the past and the desolation of his physical surroundings, and blurs into a yearning but uncertain future. It's a love song that aches with the sincerity and confusion of prayer; especially as it changes its entire musical direction about two minutes in. Admiral Fell Promises is the simplest Sun Kil Moon album in terms of production and presentation, but the richest in terms of structural complexity, and poetic and emotional power. [The vinyl version includes liner notes and two bonus tracks recorded live in St. Malo, France. All purchases through the Caldo Verde website will receive a free, limited-edition, four-song Sun Kil Moon EP entitled I'll Be There. The EP includes covers of Stereolab, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, and the Jackson 5.]

Biography

Formed: 2002 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

After dissolving his previous band, Red House Painters, singer/songwriter Mark Kozelek resurfaced with Sun Kil Moon, refining and expanding the luminous acoustic balladry and harrowingly intimate lyricism that were the hallmarks of his career to date. Born in Massillon, Ohio, in 1967, Kozelek formed his first band, God Forbid, while in his teens. Upon relocating to Atlanta, he struck up a friendship with drummer Anthony Koutsos, and together they formed the first incarnation of Red House Painters....
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Admiral Fell Promises, Sun Kil Moon
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