By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
On indie rock's color wheel, Mark Kozelek is a stubborn gray. Amid the poppy reds of the New Pornographers, the quirky greens of Grizzly Bear, and the fervent purples of the Arcade Fire, he's the hoary bard of rainy mornings and smoky bars—the cloud over your Sunday picnic. With the Red House Painters, as a solo artist, and now with his third record as Sun Kil Moon, Kozelek has cast himself as the archetype of introspection, the Singer-Songwriter.
On April, Kozelek appears more immersed in his somber persona than ever before. It's a massive record: a full 74 minutes of soft finger-picking, half-time tempos, and his barrel-aged tenor. In other words, April feels like twice its length. Its 11 tracks are a study in dynamic uniformity: a sunset in slow motion. April hits its stride with the languid 12-string guitar that introduces opener "Lost Verses" and never lets off. Whether Kozelek is looking for forgiveness or not, nine-minute folk dirges weren't the way to make up for 2005's Tiny Cities, Sun Kil Moon's much-maligned 30-minute album of Modest Mouse covers.
Of course, there's a reason why Kozelek became one of sad-folk's premier character actors, and there are certainly occasions on April where he nails the role. Not only is "Moorestown" under five minutes long, it's also gut-wrenchingly beautiful: a lost-love tale told through chiming guitar and pliant strings. See also "Harper Road" and "Tonight in Bilboa" for the singer's endearing affinity for geography, autobiography, and gymnastic fretwork.
Koz (as he is known to the initiated) is a master of the cozy ballad—a claim his latest record gives no cause to dispute. A song or two will keep you warm and contented, but take in the full album and April will smother you worse than a down comforter in July.