Plumbiferous Media

Admiral Fell Promises – Sun Kil Moon

Jul 18th 2010
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Admiral Fell Promises - Sun Kil MoonSun Kil Moon
Admiral Fell Promises
Score: 67

Singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek released a new solo LP, Admiral Fell Promises on the 13th, under his band’s name, Sun Kil Moon. Admiral Fell Promises is a beautiful solo album, displaying his excellent acoustic guitar work, as well as his terrific voice, but unfortunately, not at the same time. In the end, instead of being the fantastic album that Kozelek is clearly capable of creating, Admiral Fell Promises gets bogged down by seriously lengthy tracks (averaging 6 minutes long) and guitar and voice that never really work together, creating a final product that really doesn’t sound all that great.

Mark Kozelek’s voice fills Admiral Fell Promises, creating a gentle yet powerful sound which forms the style of the album. As Kozelek’s voice shapes Admiral Fell Promises, it allows him to craft the album’s rich images in the tone that best fits their depth. That combination of reminiscence and wondering lets Kozelek express the sort of emotion he does with lines like “The ocean beneath me is loneliness / The cities all are one / Repeating and repeating,” imbuing already passionate words with his rich tones. Unfortunately, however strong the sound of Kozelek’s voice may be, he tends heavily towards uncreative, repetitive melodies, which by no means help with the length of the tracks.

With Admiral Fell Promises, Kozelek tells stories, whether of places, such as on the excellent “Third and Seneca,” people, such as the Catherine he sings of on “Sam Wong Hotel,” or time. Each is told in a vivid manner, drawing carefully detailed images of each of Kozelek’s subjects as he draws the listener into each of his locations, wherever they may be located in space or time.

Kozelek is an extremely talented guitarist. The acoustic solos placed throughout the album are nothing short of amazing. The solos are well inflected, filled with emotion, incredibly well recorded, and on top of all of it, modulate frequently through incredibly interesting chords. As good as any other element may be, the solo guitar is clearly the best element of the album, and it’s really a shame that they don’t mesh well with the vocals. It’s more than clear that Mark Kozelek is entirely capable of making an absolutely incredible instrumental album. So as excellent as his voice may be, you do sometimes feel that the presence of it ruins the album.

As excelent as the vocals may be, let alone the lyrics or guitar, when all together, the album does nothing more than suffer. “Third and Seneca” is a perfect example: while Kozelek sings, the guitar, while not incredibly boring, is certainly quite repetitive and ultimately stagnant. As soon as Kozelek’s voice drops out the guitar shifts into terrific modulations, developing the track into something truly interesting. Yet as soon as Kozelek begins singing again, the guitar falls back to what it had previously been playing. Perhaps Kozelek is not great at being musically creative while singing, but that’s something to work on, not an excuse.

Admiral Fell Promises is, on the whole, a good album. Kozelek has been making music for long enough, whether as part of Red House Painters or Sun Kil Moon or as a solo artist, that well-composed music is expected rather than exceptional. With Admiral Fell Promises, Kozelek goes above that line, even if only somewhat. The album has a few major weaknesses, first in over-length and second in weak melodies, which combine to make sections of the album quite dull, especially when compared to the best sections. Those best sections are certainly worth listening to – though making it through the less-excellent bits can feel a bit like a slog.

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