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Sun Kil Moon & Thomas Greener's "Best of 2014"

Adriana Kelly's picture

Thomas Greener's must-listen albums of 2014! A very long list, but every release a real keeper:
Lucinda Williams  "Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone"  Highway 20
Augie Meyers  "Santa Fe"  El Senro
Hooray For The Riff-Raff  "Small Town Heroes"  ATO
Jerry Lee Lewis  "Rock & Roll Time"  Vanguard
The Levon Helm Band  "The Midnight Rambles Sessions Vol. 3"  Vanguard
Truckstop Honeymoon  "The Madness of Happiness"  Self
Phil & Dave Alvin  "Common Ground" Yep Rock
Billy Joe Shaver  "Long In The Tooth"  Lightning Rod
Johnny Cash  "Out Among The Stars" Sony
Jason D. Williams  "Hillbillies & Holy Rollers" Rockabilly
Asylum Street Spankers  "Last Laugh"  Yellow Dog
Richard Dobson  "Gulf Coast Tales"  Self
Mark Leviton reviews Sun Kil Moon's "Benji"  (Caldo Verde)

     For over 20 years, Mark Kozelek has been releasing albums under a variety of monikers, including his own name, as Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon (named for a Korean boxer).

His latest is perhaps his most emotional and raw work, the songs examining themes of death and loss, using autobiographical details combined with trenchant observations of modern life.  With spare accompaniment, Kozelek's strong baritone and flamenco-style acoustic guitar draw the listener into his world.  The album functions like a series of short stories, recalling the haunting work of writers like William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and Raymond Carver.

     The opening track "Carissa" is a memorial to a cousin of Kozelek's who met an early, shocking and bizarrely tragic end.  "Jim Wise" relates the true story of his visit with a friend of his father's, who's under house arrest and about to stand trial for the mercy killing of his terminally-ill wife.  "Pray for Newtown" and "Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes" are poignant ruminations on the continuing costs of murder and trauma.  Using headlines as starting points, Kozelek anchors his songs in his specific experiences, and avoids merely lecturing his audience. 

   The album's centerpiece is the 10-minute confessional "I Watched the Film The Song Remains The Same," in which Kozelek reveals his sorrow over a boyhood bullying incident, and grappling with how his emotional sensitivity developed into a sometimes difficult music career.  The overall sound is keening and bleak, but hope peaks through.  Kozelek is still in awe of the process that allows him to take his hurt and make art from it.  His bravery in sharing feelings of pain and helplessness makes this disc a memorable, if tentative, journal of healing.

check out "Carissa" here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBNdOTu2Wn0