Sun Kil Moon’s, new release, Common as Light and Love are Red Valleys of Blood comes after a prolific year for the indie folk writer, also known as Mark Kozelek. Following two simultaneous releases last year; one, a compilation of covers and the other, a collaboration with Jesu, it’s surprising that Kozelek has any life left in him. Nevertheless, Common as Light and Love are Red Valleys of Blood has niched out a place in your record collection next to all previous Sun Kil Moon releases.
Common as Light and Love are Red Valleys of Blood, which features Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, opens with God Bless Ohio. The track has a light, organic instrumentation that sits behind Kozelek’s voice. Like all Sun Kil Moon songs, the lyrics are autobiographical. Unlike most contemporary folk-ish singer, Kozelek doesn’t lie about where he’s been for the last few months between recording. There isn’t talk of rivers or mountains on Sun Kil Moon songs, but rather lyrics that deal with inner turmoil and perhaps disdain towards his surroundings. This is the focal point on the album as all of the songs follow a similar framework.
However the music isn’t to be ignored. I found it interesting the Steve Shelley was on this album. While this isn’t his first appearance on a Sun Kil Moon recording, it may be his strongest one yet. If you’re a fan of Sonic Youth, you might be able to pick out the subtle influence the band has on Sun Kil Moon. The repetitive melodies and driving drums are a dead giveaway to Shelley’s. Other than the spoken-word lyrics, the percussion work on Common as Light and Love are Red Valleys of Blood is what stands out the most.
Something I noticed while going through the album the first go-round was that Kozelek’s songs aren’t meant to be related to and if they are, it’s on a very surface level. If one was to ask average listeners why they like particular artists, one reason is usually something along the lines of being able to relate to said artist. Kozelek’s work seems to take purposeful steps in drafting a story that’s his own and no one else’s. Songs that mention playing Jimmy Fallon and specific people he knows paint a picture that only he can look at with full meaning. At the end of the day, Sun Kil Moon comes across more as a non-fiction book and less like one of your favorite bands. It’s an intriguing way to tell a story but some fans might get lost on some of the subject matter they don’t fully understand. Kozelek clearly doesn’t care, though, and that’s what makes his work endearing.
My favorite track on the album is Window Sash Weights. The track features two different movements and talks about getting older. Rather than flirting nostalgia, Kozelek croons about his friends what they’re doing while he still makes music. The problems he encounters from day to day seem laughable compared to what his peers deal with as he pokes fun at bloggers and the shows he plays at colleges. It’s unclear to listeners if he takes himself seriously or not but maybe that’s the overall conflict Kozelek faces in making music. Perhaps that’s the overall conflict we all face and Sun Kil Moon is just holding a mirror up to our faces.
In closing, for the average music fan, Common as Light and Love are Red Valleys of Blood is a beautiful landscape for your long winter walks to the bar where you’re meeting nobody. It’s an album for people who stare out their windows and make up stories for the pedestrians passing by. On a deeper surface, Sun Kil Moon’s newest Double LP is the continuing saga of Mark Kozelek’s life, he grows older and more fragile and we grow in the same direction with him.
Click here to hear Window Sash Weights.
– By Mike Metcalf