Sun Kil Moon's April (appropriately released in the month of April and on Mark Kozelek's own Caldo Verde Records) is a sprawling disc with 11 songs that spread themselves out over nearly 73 minutes. Discounting the terrible Modest Mouse covers album, Tiny Cities, the album is the second full-length LP by Sun Kil Moon , Mark Kozelek's post Red House Painters group.
Their first record, Ghosts of the Great Highway, featured an array of styles. There were loud electric tracks alongside slow and gentle acoustic songs. April, on the other hand, has more of an epic whole album experience vibe to it instead of being a collection of different tracks. It is more melancholy than Ghosts mainly due to Kozelek's soft, almost soporific vocals, which are rarely raised above a distanced level.
As expected of a Kozelek release, the melodies on the new recording are beautiful. Mark Kozelek's songwriting and guitar playing abilities are showcased with ridiculous ease. He is one of those phenomenal guitarists who never looks as though he is trying despite the difficulty of the material that he performs. Most of April is acoustic guitar and solo based, but there are some songs that incorporate drums and bass such as "Tonight the Sky," a long and dirgey Neil Young and Crazy Horse sounding electric song, and the countryesque"Like the River," which boasts Will Oldham on backing vocals.
The most engaging portion of the album is the middle set of songs. "Unlit Hallway" is a pretty track that is similar in sound to the style of the Red House Painters' Old Ramon, from 2001. "Heron Blue" is perhaps the best song on April as it is the most unique. In fact, it doesn't sound much like anything that he has ever done before. There is an extremely stark sounding acoustic guitar that is finger-picked. It is so desperately remote, sounding like a Woven Hand song and Kozelek's vocals are detached, but direct, sounding a little bit like Leonard Cohen. The lead guitar is a sublime Spanish guitar part that supplements the song in the best possible way.
April is a strongly pleasant album. It is not as challenging or as emotionally striking as the Red House Painters, but it is on par with the first Sun Kil Moon disc. Kozelek may not be moved to deliver extremely poignant vocals or captivating lyrics these days, but he is still capable of penning some gorgeous melodies.