I have enjoyed an on-off relationship with the music of Mark Kozelek for more than 20 years; initially via his inaugural appearance under the guise of The Red House Painters. However, it is a long time since I have felt any genuine sense of excitement about the prospect of a new release. Nevertheless, as a fan of The Album Leaf, the idea of that band's mainstay, Jimmy Lavelle, teaming up with Kozelek certainly whetted the appetite. And, boy, what an album they have made. I don't think Kozelek has put together such a consistant;y strong set of lyrics in a career spanning the best part of three decades - for these are not just songs, but short stories that even masters of the form (think of the radio collections compiled by the likes of writers such as Paul Auster) would be proud of. Lavelle sympathetically underpins throughout with undemonstrative electronic and keyboard work, and appears to have breathed new life into the singer in the process. I would have liked the vocals even louder in the mix (and a lyric sheet with the cd), as Kozlek does have a tendency to murmur and slur, but once you have got the plot of each tale, it is impossible not to get drawn in. One or two could have done with closer editing, but ultimately the flaws are minor for a record that absolutely brims over with compassion, humanity and optimism. Intimate, intense, intelligent and a real contender for album of the year.
Never heard of either artist until I took a chance on an Amazon recommendation. Glad I did. It's one of the most lyrically inventive albums I've heard in years. Some tracks are too literal and mildly irritating ("Baby In Death Can I Rest Next To Your Grave", "Caroline"), but this is more than compensated for by the quality of others. Stand out tracks for me are "By The Time That I Awoke", "Gustavo", and "You Missed My Heart". "1936" and "Gustavo" are pretty heart-wrenching, but hard to stop listening to. Be sure to listen past the opening bars of the opening track...
A wonderful album, Mark Kozelek is a great storyteller, the songs creating visuals of the characters and Jimmy's soundtrack providing mystical and laid back electro beats are just perfect for turning up loud and sitting back and relaxing. Gustavo is one memorable track
Absolutely stunning, just when I was losing faith in Mark Kozelek, he comes up with this. Best album I have bought this year by far. Gentle infectious music with great storytelling that just makes you want to hit the repeat button time and time again.
An amazing album from Mark Kozelek. Not the kind of cd I'd put on at a party; more of a quiet and reflecting listen. At times the subject matter sung in the lyrics is difficult but it is executed superbly with help from Jimmy Lavalle of the excellent The Album Leaf.