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Album Review
Universal Themes

Universal Themes
by Sun Kil Moon

Caldo Verde

Review Date
24th June 2015
Reviewed by
Paul Larsen

Things have changed since Mark Kozelek decided he would go about writing music differently. When the indie rock gave way to the low-key meandering folk rhythms, Kozelek was instantly repositioned as a storyteller in the reinvented Sun Kil Moon. A narrator for the minutia of life who delves into detail normally reserved for the longest of tomes. Characters are formed, have entire story arcs and are dismissed amongst a six or seven-minute tale. It’s a unique and interesting means of songwriting and has deservedly been recognised as such.

However, over the last year-or-so the narrator has ventured somewhat from the wings and into the limelight. A series of unfortunate incidents including labelling an audience “fucking hillbillies”, trash talking The War On Drugs and delivering a borderline misogynistic tirade towards a Guardian reporter have (intentionally or not) thrust Kozelek into a new light. And while there isn’t any tangible sign of this recent abrasive streak within new release, Universal Themes, it’s hard not to listen to these tracks with that thought in mind.

Previously shared tracks ‘The Possum’, ‘Ali/Spinks 2’, and ‘Garden of Lavender’ will have reassured fans that the template has not been altered greatly at all. The delicate, vulnerable nature of his song-writing remains and if anything the storytelling has gotten more personal and (ironically) less universal with the departure from the morose tales of death that made up last year’s release,Benji. But it’s a trade-off that ultimately leaves Universal Themes lacking. The record feels too long, stretched too thin and unfortunately less genuine.


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