Sun Kil Moon - I Also Want to Die in New Orleans - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Sun Kil Moon - I Also Want to Die in New Orleans

by Alberto Andrés Rating:4 Release Date:2019-03-01
Sun Kil Moon - I Also Want to Die in New Orleans
Sun Kil Moon - I Also Want to Die in New Orleans

Here’s a not-so-comprehensive list of things Mark Kozelek rants about in his new album I Also Want to Die in New Orleans: cows, mass shootings, his drummer, playing cover songs, cows again, the Republican party, the Eagles, guns, the US immigration policy during the Obama administration, streaming services, Michael Bolton, Europeans making fun of him, a crying kitty (featuring Mark Kozelek’s impression of a crying kitty) buffalo wings, a nightmare about his microphone being named AR-15.

Since he released his 2014 late-career renaissance Benji (unpopular opinion: his 2013 collaboration with Jimmy LaValle Perils from the Sea is also up there with his best work), Mark Kozelek has been playing the villain. He’s tried to start beef with pretty much every other living artist who’s not his friend. He spewed sexist remarks to a renowned journalist, for which he never even thought about issuing an apology. He’s been making his music increasingly unlistenable, letting the stream-of-consciousness approach that he mastered in Benji get the better of him. And it’s not like he’s gone quiet. The past few years have seen Kozelek keeping himself as busy as ever, as his back catalogue has gone from vast to simply overwhelming. There have been more Sun Kil Moon albums since Benji than in the first 10 years of the project’s existence – and that’s without counting other recent Kozelek releases put out under his own name.

So here we are in March 2019, facing yet another Mark Kozelek album. By the time the opening track “Coyote” has hit the five-minute mark, it becomes quite clear that we’re dealing with the latest instalment in the “Mark Kozelek repeating the same chord progression over and over again while going on about what he had for dinner last night” series. Example 1 out of way too many: “There was a band on TV, I’d never seen them before to my recollection / They were twelve people on stage pushing buttons in stationary positions / The singer sounded like an even simpler Simple Minds if that’s possible.”

The album was originally going to be released under “Mark Kozelek with Donny McCaslin and Jim White”, but it became a Sun Kil Moon project after Kozelek saw a poster for the Suicideboys album I Want to Die in New Orleans. In a way, the album’s backstory is painfully telling of what Kozelek has come to. The Sun Kil Moon moniker, which used to be reserved for Kozelek’s most elaborate and touching works, is now interchangeable with any other of his projects – mostly because, well, they are all pretty much the same thing by now. Kozelek goes on long spoken-word rants. Sometimes the rants are funny – insightful, even. But most of the times it’s like watching your grandpa talk shit after having two drinks at Christmas dinner. In case you had forgotten, Mark Kozelek is a musician, so there’s some music playing on the background. More often than not, it’s the same boring measure repeated ad nauseam (“Day in America”, “Laughing At You”). When it’s not (“L-48”, “Bay of Kotor”, you still have to be resilient enough to get over Kozelek’s insufferable diatribing to make something out of the songs.

What’s most frustrating is that I Also Want to Die In New Orleans features some of the most creative moments in any recent Kozelek release. “I’m Not Laughing At You” almost sounds like the early Modest Mouse songs that Kozelek used to cover, its intricate guitar work being too good for Kozelek’s spoken-word ramblings to ruin it. He’s still a master at harmonizing with himself to create brief moments of tension that spice up his unbearably long narrations. At their best, the arrangements in I Also Want to Die In New Orleans are as captivating as in any major Kozelek release – see the faux jazz in the rhythm-heavy “Couch Potato”, or the Benji-esque fingerpicking of the album highlight “Bay of Kotor”.

Keeping track of Kozelek has become a full-time job – one where the cons outweigh the pros. A stale re-hash of a songwriting method that should’ve been put to rest years ago, I Also Want to Die in New Orleans is the kind of music that people who hate Mark Kozelek think he makes. You know something’s gone wrong when the most listenable song in a Sun Kil Moon album is a 23-minute semi-spoken-word track where he tries to meow. It’s come to the point where not even Kozelek gives a fuck about his own work. Perhaps we should all take a leaf out of his book and stop caring too.

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