Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle – Perils from the Sea
This is a magnificent album. A collaboration between Sun Kil Moon and The Album Leaf, both elements combine perfectly. Jimmy LaValle of The Album Leaf provides the backing. Mainly electronic including the drum beat, it’s pretty minimal. Crucially, it’s never in competition for the song. With guitars on only a couple of tracks, LaValle sets the basic foundation throughout. Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon gives us the vocals and the lyrics. Along with Willy Vlautin of Richmond Fontaine, Mark Kozelek is about the best story teller around. What’s more, they seem to be his stories. Told in the first person, they seem utterly authentic. ‘Gustavo’ has a Vlautin-like theme with the acutely observed story-line details. But it’s Mark’s house that Gustavo is renovating and it’s Mark who fails to help when Gustavo gets deported. At least three songs tell us directly about his touring experiences. The flights, the hotels, the ceiling gazing. Is it miserable? Well, it’s Mark Kozelek. So, you’d expect it to be. Twice we’re told that touring is lonely and more than once we’re told about people who’ve died. But that’s not the feeling you come away with. There’s sarcasm. “My guitar was broken and in need of repair, Thanks for the hassles Korean Airways”. And irony. Visiting Australia, he tells us “It rained all the evening and it rained all the day, Never got to see the outback or visit Bon Scott’s grave”. But mainly there’s plenty of hope and love. “I’m so happy to be alive”, he sings, “To have these people in my life”. And then there’s the 10-minute closer. After wistful tales of tragic deaths, he ends with a description of him sitting in a plane looking down on San Francisco about to come home from another long tour. “And at The Golden Gate and Oakland Bay Bridges many boats are sailing, And the wonder of life always prevails”. At 78 minutes, this is still a lean album. The work of Jimmy LaValle ensures that. But most of all it’s a 78-minute glimpse into what makes us human and how we react to the human condition. Wonderful.