A Stream of Consciousness
Mark Kozelek’s brainchild, Sun Kil Moon, has built quite a repertoire in slow-core folk rock music over the past 17 years. Their new record, which is strangely titled after a $uicideBoy$ poster, I Also Want to Die in New Orleans, reinstates Kozelek’s laissez-faire delivery of self-pitying personal and political narratives. The album has some interesting switch-ups in production, yet Kozelek’s worn-out vocals seem to merely ramble on for over 130 minutes, not hitting the mark like previous records.
“Coyote” opens with a melancholic guitar over soft jazzy percussion. Kozelek’s vocals are whiny and monotonous throughout until some sultry saxophones begin and the harmonies grow gently. Throughout the record, he switches the narrative back and forth from humor to seriousness. Lines like ‘news of dead children so we switch channels” are followed by humorist skunk experiences.
“Day in America” may feel a bit slow and repetitive, but Kozelek’s commentary about gun control and school shootings feels genuine and sincere. Stinging liberal comments about mass shooters lead to his darkly comedic analogy about microphones’ names sounding like automatic weapons. “L-48” is Kozelek in his nostalgic state reminiscing about his first guitar when he was in the seventh grade, an impressive 1930s Gibson l-48. Needless to say, he is a great guitar player.
“Cows” is definitely a stand out here. Over cool, distinct drums and a darker melody, Kozelek delivers lyricism about, yes, cows. Perhaps an ode to the album title, he then mumbles “If I die eating crawfish and Gulf Coast oysters in New Orleans, know that I died happy.” The track is entertaining and quirky, and he brilliantly sets himself up towards the end as he unapologetically talks about ‘sinking my teeth in the flesh of a cow.’ He proceeds to name a couple of meat restaurants he loves.
It’s safe to say the collaboration between Kozelek, saxophonist Donny McCaslin and singer Jim White on this album subtly saved the project. Their efforts elevated the overall production of this album. This is apparent on the track “I’m not Laughing at You.” The song has a really beautiful introduction as detuned dreamy guitars play over easy going drums until gentle saxophones creep in. Engaging stories are shared from Kozelek’s personal experience of being American in different countries. He describes a girl ‘laughing at the country I came from,’ and raises the question of the USA’s international identity and reputation.
“Couch Potato” is a faster-paced track in which he talks about Trump, children being separated from their families and the definition of a true couch potato, that is a junkie who “sniffs the media’s brew.” Though the topics are emotional, Kozelek misses his opportunity in truly adding something new and original to the political debate. His lyrics seem to resemble more of just a stream of consciousness for an established musician and writer.
The 23-minute-long finale “Bay of Kotor” has a lot, if not too much material. The track features some classical guitars and holds a lot of symbolic imagery as Kozelek subtly speaks of a wall and a black and white kitten trying to get to her family. Little stories about concert experiences, women, the loneliness of the road and a false ‘good life’ find their way throughout the track. After an allotted six months of recording sessions in Hyde Street Studio, San Francisco, the 51-year-old closes with “my ears are burnt out.”
Though the record may be somewhat impressive in production, Kozelek sometimes serves too much ego in his attitude. Over the lengthy runtime of this album, it usually registers as slightly tasteless and rather boring. Although the record’s entertainment value is low, I Also Want to Die in New Orleans and Sun Kil Moon’s sound still proves to be original and pioneering within its own genre. Hopefully, he harnesses his creativity in a more impressive manner on future releases.