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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