April


Band: Sun Kil Moon
Album: April
Best song: “Lost Verses.” All 9:43 of it.
Worst song: “Heron Blue” is good, but the weakest song on an excellent set.

In baseball (here I go again about baseball), there is a phenomenon of the age-27 season (though, many would suggest otherwise). It was thought that baseball players generally peak during their age-27 seasons, as the general baseball player peak is 25-29.

I am not a professional ballplayer, of course. I am a regular schmoe. Indeed, I turned 27 in 2008, though I didn’t anticipate it to be the most tide-turning year in my adult life. 

(I’ll add the so far caveat now. Of course, there’s a possibility that a series of events will have transpired that will make it such that another year will be a big deal. In fact, it’s very likely. But, at age 30, my age-27 year has been the biggest.)

I’ve actually written a lot about albums that came out during 2008. Kanye West’s sublime 808s & Heartbreak finished up the year, not the mention one of my favorite albums, Lil Wayne’s opus. The Fleet Foxes’ first album came out that year. I did some of my best writing in 2008 about those albums, but certainly I felt the most connected to music at that time. This site started in 2008; I finished my RS project that year.

Music is what puts us in a place. It evokes something and there aren’t a ton of voices or artists that evoke more than Mark Kozelek.

I began 2008 in the midst of graduate school. In fact, 2008 was the calendar year I spent entirely in graduate school. I’m not entirely sure as to why I started graduate school. I think it was a bunch of reasons. For one, I was tired of journalism and I wanted to maybe teach. I found teaching to be attractive on some level, without knowing what it would entail and how much work would go into finding a teaching job. Secondarily, I was having one in a string of — for lack of a better term — quarter life crises, this one involving my lack of social life. Of course, the program in which I enrolled wasn’t exactly the place for social life, so that may have been a mistake. Third, I had missed the education aspect of my life. College was a great time for me, in a lot of ways and I missed any facsimile of that.

Mostly, though, I think there was a lack of real confidence in myself, intellectually. There’s a host of reasons for this, but first and foremost is the fact that I was always the least intelligent of my friends in high school. I’ve always had a little chip on my shoulder about intelligence with them — outsiders have called our group “initimdatingly smart” — and I always gravitated toward the stupid nonsense that is popular culture and baseball. That was my superpower, my speciality among my friends.

Well, that wears off when you become a sorta adult. Certainly, I don’t see my HS friends a lot, but their presence (in a good way) is always with me; no one knows me better than they do. So, in a way, I think graduate school was a way for me to increase my intelligence, train my brain back into a learning mode and, ultimately, be less stupid.

Sadly, this did not happen. I am still an idiot, but at least I am now an idiot with an advanced degree.

Mark Kozelek is one of the few people that is able to have put out records in more than one band that are considered wonderful by most that have heard them. The Red House Painters, led by Kozelek, put out some excellent records, including the lovely Ramon as the band dissolved.

His cover albums — one under his own name and one under the Sun Kil Moon moniker — are brilliant. What’s Next to the Moon turns so much of AC/DC’s arrogance on its head, with Kozelek’s baritone churning it around.

The middle third of 2008 is the most difficult period of my life. I’ll written it before, but my greatest regret before June 2008 was that I didn’t take the plunge to commit more of my life to my ex-girlfriend and move away from DC when she did.

However, now, it’s the fact that I’ll never get back the poorly-worded and even more poorly implemented memorial I gave to my closest friend. I’m trying to right it here and other places online, but it’s hardly the same. I cannot actually do him justice anyway, but I will keep trying.

That summer is the point when life became absurd to me. The notion of a “plan” got lost that summer. The amount of things in the world that we cannot control is so very vast as compared to that which we can control. On some level, the amount of actors in the world make it such that there are two — yes, this theory is overly simple, but I tend to believe in it — options. The first is that there is order by way of some sort of guiding hand. This is why we have things like religion or karma or whatever.

I do not believe in this theory.

The second is that there is a chaos in the world that works itself out to some end. It does not necessarily balance, though that does happen. Which is to say that you can get royally fucked if the chaos takes you. Bad people live to an age that lets them destroy plenty of people. Or, hurt, destroy and maul their own people.

And, sadly, some great people die before those who care about them can actually express how they feel properly.

April is a pretty magnificient album in its arrangements, writing and, honestly, soul. Kozelek’s guitarwork is not anything to necessarily admire, but his music evokes Neil Young’s great work without sounding like a Neil Young cover band (hello, Jason Molina!).

Some of that is the Modest Mouse guitar work Kozelek probably got through osmosis while recording Tiny Citiesm most evident on “Tonight In Bilbao,” but also around on other tracks. Other songs simply do not have the riffing upon which Young always relied.

Lyrically, the songs are not as overt in storytelling, which opens the songs for intrepretation. This is among Kozelek’s greatest strength as a songwriter. He doesn’t beat a listener with choruses or themes, but rather works in subtlety in his record’s emotive spirit.

Helping out is kindred spirit Will Oldham. Similarly baritone and laconic, the man behing Bonnie “Prince” Billy adds vocals to “Unlit Highway” and the more folk-oriented “Like the River.” Oldham’s vocals are not overused — this is not as easy as it seems.

“Moorestown” is the typical Kozelek number, a self-refelctive number that has a revolving piano melody and strings, recounting growing up in the midwest and being in love. “Lost Verses” is among Kozelek’s best work. The song is all starkness and dense production, while not sounding like either.

The final third of 2008 saw upheaval in the United States from the eight previous years of rule by George W. Bush. This was a sea change in many people’s eyes and it’s a little shocking to think that it was only three years ago. It seems like ages.

But, no one comes here to read about politics. Being that I live in the DC area, the political process was a way to get people to have debate parties and use the bingo cards that were very hot at the time.

I went to a debate party at a friend’s house and met a young woman that would become a very important part of my life: Sarah Palin.

Not really.

I spent the last few months of 2008 dating this young woman and, though that relationship is no more, I have nothing but affection for her. It’s the kind of adult relationship that brought back a lot of stuff I’d thought I’d lost; passion, sincerity and, sadly, my puppy-love instincts that are more detrimental than helpful most of the time.

It was a relationship about which I’ve written (in one way or another) as many words as any and one that occupies my mind more than any other.

And I’ll compare it to the great Dan Harmon quote I’ve already used in this space before:

“Is there any such thing as true love?” The question is the important thing. There’s no answer.

Clichés are clichés because they have truth within them. It’s easy to dismiss the things we hear a lot, but they are universal because we all have the feeling and the experience. The notion that the “journey is what matters” echoes the Harmon quote.

And that’s what started in 2008: The journey.

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  • By TNT | Albums That I Own on June 6, 2012 at 9:10 am

    […] written before about the nature of love and the import of personal growth within relationships. Indeed, one of the largest fallacies of modern romantic thought is that a relationship is failed […]

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