SUN KIL MOON: April [Caldo Verde]

One of the key elements that made Sun Kil Moon’s 2003 album Ghosts Of The Great Highway so remarkable was Mark Kozelek’s fallen-angel tenor juxtaposed with a sometimes ugly, sometimes triumphant wall of big, Southern-seasoned guitar. For the LP’s proper follow-up (let’s just pretend the Modest Mouse covers record from 2005 never happened, shall we?), the trick is mostly set aside, meaning April has more in common with the introverted side of Kozelek’s Red House Painters than, say, Crazy Horse. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At nearly 10 minutes, the gorgeous “Lost Verses” sets the album in motion with Kozelek’s typically stunning eye for lyrical detail backed by a jangling, road-ready acoustic guitar. As lovely as that sounds, April loses momentum under such a reserved approach. While Will Oldham’s ghostly backing vocals add another shade of darkness to “Unlit Hallway,” and the starkly hypnotic “Heron Blue” recalls an Appalachian murder ballad, many otherwise engaging moments get lost in the album’s somewhat monochromatic 74 minutes. It’s difficult not to wish Kozelek’s big blue guitar were given more time to shine. []

—Chris Barton